In Kovno ghetto, on 24 July 1942, around the time of Great Deportation from Warsaw, Avraham Tory noted the following:
The Gestapo issued an order: pregnancy in the Ghetto is forbidden. Every pregnancy must be terminated. An eighth- or ninth-month pregnancy may be completed. From September on, giving birth is strictly forbidden. Pregnant women will be put to death.Five days later Tory noted a circular from the Jewish Council informing physicians and midwives of their responsibilities under the Gestapo order. On 7 August, Tory wrote that SS Sergeant "Rauca, accompanied by Garfunkel, toured the institutions of The Ghetto. During the tour he noticed a pregnant woman, in her seventh month. Rauca said: 'This embryo must perish. If not, it will be taken away from its mother right after birth." The Council, on 8 September, "issued an announcement about the ban on pregnancies in the Ghetto. From now on, the Germans declare that any pregnant woman will be killed on the spot."
In early January 1943, Council members were questioned by Keiffler, deputy governor of Kovno city, about ghetto statistics, including "how many births? . . . We answered that ever since last September there have been no births in the Ghetto. That was news to him."
Council members explained that "'The Gestapo had strictly forbidden women in the Ghetto to give birth, and so they all had to terminate pregnancies.' . . . When the word 'Gestapo' is uttered the great Keiffler refrains from asking questions. . . . It appears that even a figure like Keiffler does not dare to show any interest in the Gestapo's activities." In July 1943 Tory cited the death penalty for giving birth as one factor in the ghetto's declining population.
In contrast, in the Reich, Himmler promoted large families and a high birth rate for German women with slogans like "the battle for births of good blood." He even argued that large families for Germans were a public duty and not a matter for individual choice.
Of course, the prohibition of births amongst temporarily maintained work Jews only confirms what was in store for them in the end. The Nazis at Kovno could have allowed births and killed off the young ones at the end with their parents. But it would have been doubly wasteful: the kids would have had to be fed and the parents would have had to expend effort and energy for child-rearing, one of the fundamental points of biology being parental investment. And, wanting effort and energy of temporarily surviving Jews to go for the war effort, the Nazis didn't want to have the "distraction" of kids in the ghetto at Kovno. Thus the Kovno nazis "got rid" of the kids ahead of time, first killing off 150+ who were kept together at the hospital in fall 1941 and then preventing new "pretexts for parental" effort from coming into being.
The Shavli connection: From the Diary of E. Yerushalmi, Shavli Ghetto:
July 4, 1942Protocol of the meeting of the Shavli Judenrat on March 24, 1943
". . . Dr. Charny drew the attention of the Jewish delegation to the Order concerning births. The Order was first issued on March 5, 1942. The latest date for authorized births was August 5, 1942. He would extend the date to August 15, 1942. In the event of a birth taking place in a Jewish family after this date the whole Jewish family would be "removed" and the responsibility would rest with the Jewish delegates . . ."
July 13, 1942
"Re: Security Police Order
In accordance with the Order of the Security Police, births are permitted in the ghetto only up to August 15, 1942. After this date it is forbidden to give birth to Jewish children either in the hospitals or in the homes of the pregnant women. It is pointed out, at the same time, that it is permitted to interrupt pregnancies by means of abortions. A great responsibility rests on the pregnant women. If they do not comply with this order, there is a danger that they will be executed, together with their families. The delegates are making this matter widely known. In warning the women of the possible consequences, they believe that the women concerned will remember it well . . . and will take the necessary measures during the registration of pregnant women which will take place during the next few days, and subsequently.
Those present: M. Lejbowicz, B. Karton, A. Heller and A. Katz of the Delegation; the doctors: Burstein, Blecher, Goldberg, Dyrektorowicz, L. Pesachowicz and others. The Agenda: How should births be prevented in the ghetto? M. Lejbowicz: We will go back to the question of the births. The ban on giving birth to children which has been imposed on the Jews applies with the utmost severity to all the ghettos. There was a birth recently in Kovno and all members of the family were shot and killed. But no attention is being paid to this and people are behaving most irresponsibly here. There are already several cases of pregnancy and no measures have been taken against them. Dr. Blecher asks: Can the pregnant women be forced to have abortions performed? Are there statistics on the women who are pregnant? Dr. L. reports: We have had three births since August 15 of last year; he did not know how they took place because he did not treat the cases. At the present time there are about 20 pregnant women in the ghetto, most of them in the first few months, but some who are already in the fourth or fifth month and one even in the eighth month. Only two of the pregnant women refuse to have an abortion; for one of them this would be the third abortion and she is threatened by the danger of subsequent childlessness, and the other is the one who has reached the eighth month. Dr. P.: They must be persuaded to agree to have an abortion. They must be told what happened in Kovno and Riga. If necessary one must make use of a white lie in this emergency and tell them that the Security Police is already looking for these cases. Dr. Burstein proposes that the whole medical team, including the midwives, should be forbidden to attend to births. Dr. Bl. proposes that all cases of pregnancy should be registered and the pregnant women persuaded to have abortions. M.L.: We must not make propaganda against births in public! The matter could reach ears that should not hear it. We must discuss the matter only with those concerned. He proposes that the pregnant women be summoned to the clinic, that they be warned in the presence of the doctor and a representative of the Delegation, and the full danger that awaits them be explained. Dr. L.: How can one perform an abortion on a woman who has already reached the eighth month of her pregnancy? Surely we must understand the feelings of the mother. It will surely be impossible to convince her. And what will happen to the infant if we cause a premature birth? We cannot carry out an operation like that in a private home, and it is forbidden to leave the child at the hospital. And what will happen if despite everything the child is born alive? Shall we kill it? I cannot accept such a responsibility on my conscience. Dr. Bl. adds that the position is really very difficult in a case like this for no doctor will take upon himself the responsibility of killing a live child, for that would be murder. Dr. P. asks: Perhaps we should let the child be born and give it to a Christian? M.L.: We cannot allow the child to be born because we are required to report every case of a birth. We have been asked three times whether there were any births and each time we answered in the negative. B.K.: What can we do when the ghetto is in such danger? If the danger were only to the family of the infant we could leave the matter to the responsibility of the person concerned, but it endangers the whole ghetto. The consequences are liable to be most terrible. . . ."Similar activities can be found in memoirs concerning Auschwitz. The following is taken from the Museum's Facebook site and cites the "Memoirs of former prisoner Margita Schwalbova, a Jewish physician from Slovakia employed in the camp hospital (so-called Revier), on the story of pregnant women and children born in Auschwitz. Schwalbova was deported to Auschwitz on March 28, 1942 in a mass transport from Bratislava and given number 2675":
Children were born in Birkenau from the earliest days of that camp. They were not in fact born until the fall of 1942, because every woman found to be pregnant was killed by phenol injection, or Dr. Bodmann terminated the pregnancy in such a way that every mother died from blood infection.
After our transfer to the camp in Birkenau children began to be born, but as a rule mother and child were sent to the gas chamber after birth, regardless of whether they were Aryans or Jews. Auschwitz was a death camp, not a life camp, and there was no need for young progeny.
At the end of 1942, the SS doctor at the time, Dr. Helmut Vetter, sent a letter to Berlin inquiring whether newborn infants could be placed in German nursery schools (in other words to be Germanized) while the mothers remained in the camp. No reply came for a long time, and when it did come, it was negative.
Non-Jewish newborn infants who began coming into the world at a later period were left alive. It even looked as if these new regulations applied to all women. But this was not true. After a few weeks, the SS men suddenly rounded up the infants and their mothers and gassed them.
To the degree that the pregnant women confided in us in the first months of pregnancy, we women gynecologists-prisoners-terminated them in the hospital during that time. Please not that not a single woman died from this procedure. Naturally, it was done in secret, and we admitted the women to the hospital on the basis of other diagnoses.If the Nazis were willing to do these things to pregnant women and newborns, the threshold of genocide had clearly been crossed.