When Abba sang ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, there was one member of the cult Swedish pop group for whom it had a special meaning.
The brunette Anni-Frid Lyngstad is one of thousands of people who grew up in Scandinavia shunned, persecuted and parentless. It is alleged that some were even used as guinea pigs in drugs trials.
Known as the Tyskerbarnas or German children, they were the offspring of Norwegian mothers and German soldier fathers, the result of a Nazi plan to ‘enrich’ the Aryan gene pool.
Now the group of up to 12,000, of whom many are now in their sixties, plans to fight for compensation in the European Court of Human Rights.
Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s story is typical of the suffering of thousands. After her birth in November 1945 – the result of a liaison between her mother, Synni, and a German sergeant, Alfred Haase – the infant’s mother and grandmother were branded as traitors and ostracised in their village in northern Norway. They were forced to emigrate to Sweden, where Anni-Frid’s mother died of kidney failure before her daughter was two.
The child found her father by chance three decades later. They met for an emotional reunion in her Swedish villa, instigated by Benny Anderson, an Abba founder and Anni-Frid’s then husband.
Afterwards, the singer said of the meeting and her father: ‘It’s difficult… it would have been different if I’d been a teenager or a child. I can’t really connect to him and love him the way I would have if he’d been around when I grew up.’
The depression she subsequently suffered was attributed by friends to the delayed encounter with her long-lost father, a retired pastry cook.
The somewhat morose Anni-Frid, who withdrew for years in Greta Garbo style, is nevertheless viewed as something of a role model by her fellow Tyskerbarnas still living in Norway.
‘She’s achieved amazing things in Sweden, something she would never have been able to do had she stayed in Norway, where she would have been branded a freak,’ says Tor Brandacher, 63, spokesman for the organisation representing the children. Founded in 1999, the group, Krigsbarnforbundet Lebensborn, or Source of Life, takes its name from the scheme run by Heinrich Himmler, the leader of Hitler’s feared SS, to create a master race.
It has been pursuing its claims for compensation for abuse and discrimination through the domestic courts. The case, involving 122 people, argues that the wartime Norwegian government – led by the notorious Quisling – was complicit in the Nazi scheme to breed with blonde, blue-eyed Norse women. The government asserts that if crimes were committed, they happened too long ago to be dealt with now.
The case is now going to the country’s Supreme Court, but the victims and their families are preparing to take it to the European Court of Human Rights. ‘Having been rejected by Norway so far, we have little choice but to take our case further afield,’ says Brandacher.
‘We see Norway as a rundown gas station in comparison to the gleaming motorway service station that is the ECHR in Strasbourg,’ says a hopeful Brandacher, himself the son of an Austrian elite Gebirgsjäger soldier. He says the Norwegian government is likely to face huge embarrassment once the case receives full international attention.”