Living hell of Norway's 'Nazi' children
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In his tiny flat on the edge of Oslo, Paul Hansen shows me his family album. It doesn't take long. He only has three photos.
By Steve Rosenberg
8 March 2007 / BBC News
One picture shows Paul as a toddler, the other two - the mother who abandoned him - and the father he never knew.
Paul was the product of a brief encounter between a Norwegian woman and a German soldier: a family history which was to make his life a living hell.
"At the end of World War II, I was locked away in a mental home," Paul tells me.
"Later I found out it was because I was the son of a German soldier. They called me a 'Nazi brat'. But it wasn't my fault I was born this way. Hitler, the war, none of it is my fault. I was just a child."
It was Adolf Hitler's henchman, Heinrich Himmler, who had encouraged liaisons between German troops and Norwegian women: part of his plan to breed an Aryan master race of blonde-haired, blue-eyed babies for the 1,000-year Reich.
They were known as the Lebensborn (Fountain of Life) children and - after the war - they became targets for revenge.
"In the Norwegian population, there was a hatred directed at us children," explains Bjorn Lengfelder.
Bjorn is one of more than 10,000 Norwegians fathered by German soldiers. He says he knows many cases of abuse.
"A small brother and sister, five years old, were placed in a pig sty for two nights and two days," claims Bjorn.
"Then in the kitchen they were put in a tub and scrubbed down with acid till they had no skin left 'because we have to wash that Nazi smell off you'."
Search for justice
Once too ashamed to go public with their stories, now 150 war children are demanding justice.
They have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights - accusing the Norwegian state of discrimination.
Eight of the group attended the packed hearing on Thursday in Strasbourg.
As their stories of abuse were read out to the court, some of the former Lebensborn children sat in tears.
Historian Lars Borgesrud was commissioned by the Norwegian government to research the war children's stories. He has convinced they have suffered state discrimination.
"Between 1946-1958 special rules and regulations in social laws were adopted, which actually excluded sections of war children and created poor economic conditions for these children."
Norway has offered limited compensation in the past. But the authorities are still refusing to take the blame.
"The government has acknowledged that several war children have been subject to harassment in society," says government lawyer Thomas Naalsund.
"But it is highly difficult to say now, 50 years later, that the government was responsible for these events."
Deep underground in Norway's national archive, I accompany former war child Gerd Fleischer as she hunts for her Nazi-era Lebensborn file.
"I've found it," she says triumphantly, "Look, I'm Lebensborn No 2620."
This is how Gerd began her life - as a four digit number in a Nazi experiment, filed away in the list of the chosen.
The file contains bills showing how the Nazis covered the midwife bill when Gerd was born, just because her father was a German soldier.
But after the war, Gerd joined the ranks of the hated. At school, she was branded a "German whore".
At home, she was beaten by her step father for being a Nazi child.
She believes the state must be made to pay for the way she was treated.
"Norway is a stinking rich oil nation," Gerd tells me. "We feel that justice cannot be done without an economic compensation. Words are very cheap."
Only then - Gerd believes - can Norway's war children finally gain their self-respect, after 60 years living in fear and in shame.