Weber runs his fingers through his short, steel coloured hair, before tucking his hands behind his head and pulling his elbows in around his face for a moment’s security. His arms tense, hinting at the strength it takes to stop the human body simply exploding from pent-up emotion.
Around him stand shelves filled from floor to ceiling with books, reams of paper print outs, dozens of lever arch files – evidence of a painstaking search for answers. It was not until eight years ago though, after several false starts, that Weber finally found the resolve to confront his past, come what may. “The woman I was living with at the time said to me: ‘You have to find your father.’ And she was right. All the energy had gone out of my life, the same way a battery goes flat,” he remembers.
The harrowing truth
Weber began by tentatively writing down his earliest memories, until he worked up the confidence to ask questions he had previously eschewed. He began what he describes as ‘archaeological trips’ to family members, digging a little deeper with each visit. Time and the death of his mother had softened the attitudes of his aunt and uncle in particular. His uncle’s mention of a “senior officer” reminded Weber of a similar phrase being used by his stepfather.
Weber’s mother had confided in her husband on her deathbed, but he had been a staunch SS man himself. He was impressed with the identity of Weber’s real father and was reluctant to spill the beans. “He was seething when I finally called him to ask who this ‘senior officer’ was,” Weber recalls. “‘Senior officer? Your father??’ He barked back at me: ‘He was a general!’ Then came a name. And I just went numb.”
It was a name Weber knew from history lessons (one he does not want in the press). A man who led SS extermination programmes in Poland and Russia, who was sentenced to death for war crimes, and who escaped internment to live his final days in South America. Above all though, he was a father. Weber’s mother had been his secretary during the early 1940s before becoming infatuated with him. She once admitted to her son to having a weakness for men in uniform.
“I’m no Aryan man”
Weber’s discovery stirred conflicting feelings in him. “I had to struggle with the fact he was a murderer and that was incredibly difficult,” he admits. “I had to check my position vis–à-vis myself: was there any murderous instinct in me, too? It was harrowing.” Weber had someone though, who he could call a father at last and that, after 60 years of uncertainty, brought him a degree of peace. It has allowed him to regain a little of his energy, and for all his travails he remains a warm and charismatic man.
Just as he is no murderer, Weber also says: “I am no Aryan man.” He is baffled by the Aryan ideal type, a vision of beauty that remains undiminished despite the price paid for it by the Lebensborn Kinder at one end of the scale, and the Shoah Jews at the other. It evidently pains Weber to recount that potential adoptive parents in the US still pay a premium to secure a child with blue eyes.
Weber sees beauty instead in multi-cultural Berlin: “It’s a great city!” he enthuses. “The best in Germany because we have managed some kind of integration here. I’ve always felt we should be a country of immigration – that that should be a grand corrective to our old ideological strait jacket. I feel enriched by all the different people here.”
Meanwhile, for all the pseudo-scientific care that went into his conception, there is a blot on his genealogical copybook that Weber most cherishes. A Polish great, great grandfather by the name of Dmowski makes a mockery of his supposed racial purity – and in the 1870s he made a mockery of the Prussians too. “They tried to draft him for the war against France, but he said: ‘I’m Polish not Prussian and you can fight your own wars!’” says Weber. “He fled to Russia and didn’t come back until the war was over.”
He smiles as he talks about his forebear, the broad smile of a man who will not be subjugated by his past. “He makes me feel immensely proud about who I am,” Weber reveals. His eyes, which made him feel inferior and ‘un-German’ as a child, sparkle – his defiantly brown eyes.
If you are or someone you know is a Lebensborn Kind in need of support, please get in touch with Guntram Weber via email@example.com
To read more of the Lebensborn programme, Galerie Hektorstr. was exhibiting portraits of other Lebensborn Kinder through November 17.