Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
During World War Two, approximately 400 to 450 Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätten, or foreign child-care facilities, were established across the German Reich as collection centers for the infants born to Polish and Soviet civilian laborers employed in the German war economy. My thesis examines two such foreign child-care facilities, the Volkswagen and Velpke children’s homes, where over 450 Polish and Soviet infants perished. Three themes provide the framework for an analysis of these two facilities: the conflict between two of the main goals of the Third Reich—racial cleansing and the exploitation of forced labor; the question of whether the establishment of the facilities and treatment of the children depended on orders from upper-level or local-level authorities; and the issue of whether the children’s deaths stemmed from intent to cause their deaths or indifference toward their fate. This thesis addresses the following questions: In terms of racial ideology and economic pragmatism, was one factor more significant in the establishment and use of the Volkswagen and Velpke children’s homes? Who, among upper-level and lower-level Nazi officials, ordinary Germans, medical professionals, and factory executives, was responsible for the children’s deaths? Were the children’s deaths intentional? What do these two facilities tell us about the other foreign child-care facilities that existed across the Third Reich? The research for this thesis draws upon two British war crimes trials held in Braunschweig and Helmstedt, Germany in 1946, the “Velpke Baby Home Case” and the “Rühen Baby Farm Case,” as well as records from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives in Washington, DC, the National Archives at College Park in College Park, MD, and digital records from the International Tracing Service Archives.
Ultimately, this thesis highlights the connections between the three conflicting—and often opposing—themes. First, the trial records revealed that both facilities were exclusively established, managed, and operated by local-level officials and personnel. Second, upper-level Nazi authorities deemed alleged racial enemies a threat to the German “master race,” and were intent on enforcing a racial hierarchy in the German Reich; however, the local-level officials and staff responsible for these two children’s homes were far more concerned with maintaining productivity from the Polish and Soviet workforce, remaining indifferent toward the fate of the children at the homes. Third, while both the need for economic efficiency from workers and the belief in Nazi racial ideology influenced the establishment, management, and operation of the Volkswagen and Velpke children’s homes, there is minimal evidence that local authorities and personnel prioritized racial ideology over economics. Since both facilities were controlled locally, this thesis reveals that rather than putting racial ideological into practice and intentionally killing the children, local officials prioritized economic production. This left the fate of the children somewhere between extermination and child-rearing—between being left to die, murdered, or raised.
Number of Pages
Fedewa, Lauren Elizabeth, "Between Extermination and Child-Rearing: The Foreign Child-Care Facilities of Volkswagen and Velpke" (2018). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 946.