16. An Abducted Child: Ingrid von Oelhafen
In 1942, nine month old Ingrid von Oelhafen (not her name at the time), was examined by SS officials in German occupied Yugoslavia to determine whether she met Himmler’s criterion of a “racially valuable” child with sufficiently Aryan traits. She did, and was accordingly snatched from her parents, taken across the border into Germany, and placed in the Lebensborn program.
Because she was still a baby who had not picked up any significant cultural or linguistic traits, there was no need to Germanize her before putting her up for adoption. She was adopted by a “good German” family, renamed, and for most of her life, Ingrid was wholly ignorant of her origins and background. However, as a child, she felt little connection with and affection from her family, not least because her “mother” had abandoned her in a children’s home in the aftermath of Germany’s defeat in WWII.
It was not until she was 58 years old, when she began digging into her family history, that Ingrid discovered clues hinting at her background. She followed them up, and in what amounted to a remarkable detective story, ended up finding the truth about her origins. To her shock, she discovered that her birth name had been Erika Matko, that she had been abducted into the Lebensborn program in her infancy, and that her biological family lived in today’s Slovenia.
In an added twist, Ingrid von Oelhafen, nee Erika Matko, discovered that the occupation authorities had given her parents a replacement baby, of unknown origins, in lieu of the Aryan-looking one that they took to raise in Germany. She eventually put down her experience and the story of the quest for her origins in a book, Hitler’s Forgotten Children: My Life Inside the Lebensborn.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources & Further Reading