'Lebensborn' Victims Head to Court Children of Nazi Program to Sue Norway

The children bred in Himmler's so-called "Lebensborn" program to breed an Aryan master race are suing Norway in the European Court of Human Rights for decades of discrimination. Many have been ostracized since birth and some even locked away in mental institutions.

For decades, they were society's pariahs -- discriminated against, in some cases locked up in mental institutions or even denied a proper education. But now dozens of victims of the Nazis so-called "Lebensborn" program to create an Aryan super race have come forward to battle against a tragic destiny they did not create. They are suing the Norwegian government at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights for decades of discrimination.

"We want it to be recognized that the government of Norway violated the rights of these people, and we are asking for financial damages," Randi Hagen Spydevold, an attorney for the group said, according to the Associated Press. Norway didn't join the European Convention on Human Rights until 1953, and Norwegian courts have argued that the Strasbourg court could not hold it liable for discrimination that occurred before that time. Now, however, the Lebensborn children -- all aged 60 and over -- are set to make a case that the discrimination continued throughout their lifetimes, long after Norway adopted the convention.

Some 8,000 children were born in Germany and around 12,000 in Norway as part of Lebensborn, or "spring of life," a project initiated during World War II by SS leader Heinrich Himmler to create a master Aryan race by encouraging women of "pure blood" to spawn blond, blue-eyed children. The program was part of a murderous Nazi racial policy that stretched from the forced sterilization of people with hereditary diseases to the killing of 6 million Jews.

The children of the Lebensborn project were ostracized by Norwegian society -- some accused them of being Nazi sympathizers and others discounted them as mentally or genetically defective.

In a one-time settlement in 2002, the Norwegian government paid as much as 200,000 kroner (about €24,000) to Lebensborn victims -- depending on the amount of discrimination they experienced. But Spydevold is seeking a settlement of €50,000 per person for the 159 lebensborn children who have signed on to the case -- a group that includes 154 Norwegians, 4 Swedes and one German. On Thursday, the court was set to hold a hearing on the group's arguments in order to determine whether it would take the case or not.


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