Hitler's Northern Utopia by Despina Stratigakos (Princeton £ 25, 328 p.)
Adolf Hitler was fascinated. In the spring of 1934 he went on vacation, a secret cruise in a German battleship through the fjords of Norway, and stared for hours at the natural beauty around him.
A Norwegian crew member later recalled that he was "excited about the mountains and the wonderful weather like a little boy".
That trip was apparently the beginning of a strange love affair – which is surprising. If you (like me) thought that there certainly couldn't be anything new about Hitler 75 years after Hitler's death, then this book by American architectural historian Despina Stratigakos is an eye opener.
German women who carried children with alleged "Aryan purity" in Lebensborn during World War II
It shows that after his attack on Norway in 1940, Hitler had plans for it that went beyond the brutal submission he envisioned for France, Poland and Russia after his conquest.
His great design was to turn beautiful Norway into a Nazi utopia.
While ruling a defeated Europe, Hitler and his Nazis would "gain a foothold in Norway and create space for themselves as rulers of a Nordic empire that stretched as far as the Arctic Circle".
However, Hitler's fascination with Norway was not only triggered by the splendor of its fjords. He also admired its genetic history and believed, as he wrote in Mein Kampf, that the blond, blue-eyed people with their Viking origins had the purest Aryan bloodlines. They were at the top of the race ladder.
Adolf Hitler visits the Norwegian fjords on board a warship of the Weimar Republic
Here was a dictator who exterminated millions he believed to have been racially degenerate. But he also promoted selective breeding, and Norway was a selected test bed for Nazi eugenics. As part of an SS-inspired program called Lebensborn, German troops were encouraged to impregnate the best-looking local girls, with the promise that the Nazi state would look after them and their children.
The newspapers at home projected funny images of sunny Norwegian milkmaids falling in love with Adolf Hitler for protecting them from moral and racial degeneration and doing their duty by breeding with his pure-blood soldiers.
Thousands of expectant mothers who were classified as racially valuable received priority medical care in specially built maternity homes, hotels and orphanages. Pampered Lebensborn mothers were strictly indoctrinated in the Nazi way.
The Lebensborn maternity hospital, which opened in 1935 and served as the basis for the German program, was one of the most secret and terrifying Nazi projects
June 1940: A man runs through wreckage in front of a large house in flames after Luftwaffe air raids secured the Nazis' occupation of Norway. Narvik, Norway, World War II
Inge Viermetz, the only defendant who was brought to trial in front of Tribune 1 in the RuSHA Nuremberg Trials, pleads "not guilty" for being responsible for Lebensborn in Nazi Germany in 1947
The childcare was strictly Germanic – there should be no lamentations in kindergarten. The "purest" babies were often forcibly removed from their mothers and sent to Germany to be raised in recognized SS families, although most remained in Norway.
During their five-year occupation of Norway, the Germans gave the country special treatment that was not seen anywhere else. They used forced labor and prisoners of war to build roads, bridges, tunnels, railways, docks, power stations, and business facilities and industries. Norway soon became "the only occupied country in Europe in which Nazi Germany invested more resources than withdrew".
In Hitler's plan for his utopia, cities destroyed in the brutal two-month invasion would be rebuilt on radically different Nazi lines, emphasizing the power of the state and the party, not the church.
The German police kidnapped children in occupied Yugoslavia – some of them were taken over by the Lebensborn organization in 1941 or 1942
1754: Lebensborn nursing home. Lebensborn was a Nazi organization founded by SS leader Heinrich Himmler, which granted maternity homes and financial support to the wives of SS members and unmarried mothers
1940: Nazi troops set up their large arms on one of the many fronts in Norway
Even more great, he had a vision for a purpose-built “Leader's City” that would be clawed out of the wilderness on a peninsula near Trondheim in the north of the country – away from the interracial decadence of Oslo as he saw it Capital, in the south. With 300,000 inhabitants, Nordstern was to be one of the jewels of the Third Reich alongside Berlin, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Munich and Linz (Hitler's hometown). It would crown a Greater Germany running from the Arctic to the Alps.
Hitler's crazy, messianic imagination went into high gear. He insisted that this new Athens of the North would have an opera house, theater, libraries and art galleries, but also a stadium and swimming pools – everything necessary for a modern city of cultural significance. There would be extensive green spaces, and houses for its exclusively German citizens would be laid out on terraces on a south-facing slope so that each house had sunlight all day.
German parents with an allegedly Aryan girl who was born in a Lebensborn: center of eugenics during the Second World War
Needless to say, his dream city in arias never came to fruition, although the enthusiastic Hitler, whose legacy was always paramount, spent hours working with his chief architect, Albert Speer, drafting plans and creating models of what Speer thought was best beautiful German city & # 39 ;.
It was abandoned – although in Hitler's crazy eye it was only postponed – when the defeat of the Red Army in Stalingrad on the Eastern Front in 1943 brought a stroke of luck that put National Socialist Germany on the defensive for the first time and was heading for defeat two years later .
As the war neared its end, the withdrawal of German forces followed a scorched earth policy and destroyed much of what they had built.
This destruction also included the plans for the Führer’s dream city. It is only in recent years that researchers like Stratigakos have been able to piece together the strange map fragments and documents that have survived and get a snapshot of the fanciful northern utopia he longed for.
Around 1935: The Norwegian diplomat and fascist leader Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945) inspects German troops in the National Socialist style on a visit to Germany
The human cost was high: these Lebensborn mothers and their children paid a terrible price at the end of the war.
Thousands of women were arrested and imprisoned in the summer of 1945 for fraternizing with the occupiers. There was also no mercy for their "German brats", who were branded as outcasts and treated accordingly.
In an ironic twist, the Norwegian post-war authorities decided that the mothers who slept with German soldiers were clearly mentally retarded, as were their descendants. Children who were once exalted for their genes were now despised for them.
Hitler's dream of a clean and racist "pure" Europe followed the same path as his utopia of a shining new legacy city near the Arctic. It ended up in the rubbish bin of history.
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