In the whole of pop history, has there been a band more wholesome than ABBA? Yet if you dig into the personal history of one of its members, you’ll discover something sinister, one of the many evil tentacles of the Third Reich.
And before you jump to conclusions, although involved, ABBA is totally blameless.
World War I was brutal on the German population. So many men were killed that the country’s birthrate fell a staggering 43% between 1920 and 1932. With population-boosting immigration out of the question, Hitler and his racial purity-obsessed cronies came up with a policy called Lebensborn, a program that encouraged women possessing Aryan ideals to breed. A lot.
This effort to create a new generation of racially pure children for the Reich involved everything from stealing children to the establishing of secret birthing facilities.
Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, was positive that too many German women of solid breeding stock were having abortions. He came up with the idea of having those women carry their unwanted children to term, giving birth in any one of the dozens of secret government clinics, furnished with the possessions stolen from the homes if displaced Jews. Once born, the kids were given to families of solid, elite SS/Aryan credentials to raise as their own.
When the program began, Himmler was big on having member of the SS and the military have children with any Aryan women, both within wedlock and without. For the glory of the Fatherland, you know?
As German casualties mounted during WW II, Himmler ordered his officers to marry and have kids. Women in occupied countries were also highly encouraged to mate with Nazi officers and German soldiers.
The Lebebsborn program moved east into Poland where up to 200,000 babies were kidnapped. Those who passed the racial purity test were placed in approved homes. Those who did not were sent or orphanages. Or executed.
This brings us to Anni-Frid Lyngstad, the future member of ABBA. She was born in Norway in 1945 after her mother met a Nazi sergeant, a member of theWehrmacht named Joseph Hasse. Even though she was given her mother’s maiden name, she was branded as a Tyskerbarnas, or German child. After the war, this made her and her mother social outcasts.
Unable to stand their lot in Norway, Anni-Frid, her mother and her grandmother moved to Sweden. (Haase had been sent back to Germany. She would not meet him in person until the late 70s.)
Things, of course, turned out well for Anni-Frid. Raised by her grandmother after her month died of kidney failure at age 21, she threw herself into music and by the late 60s was winning national talent competitions. In 1972, she joined ABBA and the rest is history.
It’s unknown how many Lebensborn children there were, but their story underscores just how far the Nazis were willing to go to establish their Hundred-Year Reich.
Read more about the entire Lebensborn program here.