15. An Abducted Child: Folker Heinecke
After German tanks rolled into the Crimea in 1942, they were followed by Nazi officials to administer the newly conquered territory. There, some of them encountered a blond haired toddler named Aleksander Litau, who possessed striking blue eyes. The kid’s cuteness attracted not only admiring looks from mothers, but also from SS men who thought that he represented the ideal of what an Aryan child should look like.
The cuteness proved a curse, however: as the SS saw it, leaving what they viewed as a perfect Aryan specific amid a sea of inferior Slavs amounted to a crime against the Germanic race. So they snatched him from his family, and shipped him to Germany in order to enroll him in the Lebensborn program, Germanize him, and see to it that he was raised as a German.
Photos of the boy made their way to Heinrich Himmler, who was captivated by him, and ordered that he be subjected an extra rigorous battery of racial testing to ensure that there was no trace of “Jewishness” in him. Satisfied that the kid was “pure Aryan”, Himmler personally oversaw his adoption by a wealthy and fanatical Nazi named Adalbert Heinecke.
Renamed Folker Heinecke, the former Crimean kid was able to recall when in his late 60s, seeing Himmler when he visited his home and had drinks with his “father”. Folker’s first inkling of his background came after the war, when a local child taunted him: “you know you’re a bastard, don’t you? They’re not your real mom and dad“. He never discussed it with his parents, who although they remained unreformed Nazi fanatics to their dying day, nonetheless loved him dearly. After their deaths, Folker spent much of his adulthood in a quest to discover who he was and was not. It finally led him to his Crimean origins, a quest that became the subject of a BBC documentary in 2009.