Even those of us who have never worn a uniform outside of a Burger King kitchen know that serving in combat is hell. We saw Saving Private Ryan, just like everyone else. But while all war is awful, sometimes it gets truly weird. Like ...
#5. The Nazi Baby Factories
Let's ease you into this list of creepy war stories with this image of a specially bred Aryan baby being christened in a Nazi ceremony, in which an SS officer holds a freaking dagger over his body while the mother swears allegiance to the Nazi party:
"Every political party does stuff like this ... right?"
Here, let us make it weirder: That infant was one of thousands and thousands of "Lebensborn" babies, some of whom were not bred, but were kidnapped and raised in Nazi baby factories.
The Nazis were always worried that not enough blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryans were being born into the world. So, the same guy who orchestrated the Final Solution came up with the Lebensborn program, in which the purest Aryan stock could be taken and raised as pure Nazis in a luxurious network of homes furnished with the stolen goods of murdered Jews.
"We just planted a beautiful crop of corn around the building. The children really seem to love it."
It started with simply encouraging SS soldiers invading Europe to mingle with the locals. And by mingle with, we mean "fuck." Provided, that is, the parties on the receiving end were of good Nordic stock. Should their girlfriends get pregnant, Lebensborn houses were there to provide a safe, nurturing home for unwed mothers in which to give birth and raise their babies. Thanks to these welcome arms of love, between 16,000-20,000 babies were born and Nazified during the war.
"Just park the brown-eyed ones on the lawn. We'll find a place for them later."
And when they couldn't breed enough babies this way, they just started abducting the bluest- or greenest-eyed blond babies they could find. To be fair, some of the kids stolen for the program were actually orphans. Not that getting conscripted into Nazism by virtue of one's paleness and dead parents is awesome, but at least the kids had food to eat while the world was falling apart.
Others were "voluntarily" surrendered by their parents, sometimes just to keep them from the gas chambers. And still others, probably the ones with the bluest eyes of all - like, Daniel Craig blue -- were straight up taken from their parents. There was no genetic testing done or anything -- the poor kids just looked the part. The ones who fit in were either kept in the program or adopted by German families. The ones who didn't fit in were sent to concentration camps. Poland thinks they lost as many as 200,000 kids to the Germans this way, but we'll never know for sure, since so many were absorbed by good German families. Sleep tight, friends! Maybe you come from a line of Nazi babies and you'll never even know!
Via Huffington Post
Early 20th-Century Germany, directed by Eli Roth and produced by Guillermo del Toro.
#4. The Angel Makers of Nagyrev
Not that the Nazis have a monopoly on bizarrely creepy wartime horror or anything. Hell, not all of the perpetrators are members of any army at all -- for instance, here is a story about some nice Hungarian women on the home front who secretly and systematically poisoned 300 fucking people.
It all started when, during World War I, some lonely Hungarian wives in the small village of Nagyrev started screwing some strapping Allied POWs imprisoned nearby. Fair enough. Ladies get horny, too. But when their husbands came home from war, something sinister started happening: Returning soldiers started getting a case of the deads, one after another. Which was why the village became known as "the Murder District." Well, that and the crows.
"It appears he shot himself four times in the back of the head."
The whole murder-thon started when a mysterious midwife moved into the village in 1911. When the lonely wives of Nagyrev got pregnant with their lovers' Allied spawn, it was Midwife Fuzekas who put the kibosh on the pregnancies. And when the lonely wives' husbands returned home from war, it was also Midwife Fuzekas who suggested they poison the men by boiling flypaper, skimming the arsenic off the top of the brew, then serving it to the husbands on a pizza or doughnut or something.
Oh, and just to make sure that they could do this again and again and again without ever getting caught, they had the cooperation of the village clerk (the midwife's cousin) who, when a death report came in, was sure to mark "NOT MURDER" on the official records.
"In fact, he's not even dead. Nothing to see here, I'll just take him to the hospital myself."
It was so easy, that every little problem came to be solved with arsenic soup (a fact that you'd think the local flypaper salesmen would notice, if nobody else). By the time neighboring towns figured out what was going on, as many as 300 people were poisoned by 50 different women, with the victims including parents, lovers, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and even children. All because in this one little town, in this one short stretch of time, murder by poison became a straight-up fad. Like Hammer pants.
#3. American Soldiers Collected Human Body Parts as Trophies
Before we tell you that our WWII-fighting great-grandparents collected severed Japanese heads as trophies (too late!), we need to provide a little context.
Still slightly less weird than serial killer trading cards.
First, everyone involved in the conflict had been thoroughly programmed to see their enemies as subhuman. Now add in the shock of Pearl Harbor and young men witnessing daily the horrors of war, and things start to get ... weird. We're not excusing them, we're just setting the stage. We're talking about some of the newly enlisted being issued "hunting licenses" at the recruitment office. One read:
Japanese Hunting Season
Free Ammunition and Equipment!
Join the United States Marines!
So maybe it's not so surprising that the minute Japanese bodies started hitting the ground during the Guadalcanal Campaign, G.I.s started collecting ears for souvenirs. Ears were worn on belts, teeth were made into necklaces, skulls were mailed home as keepsakes for the folks at home. It got so bad that by 1942 the U.S. military had to issue a decree specifically condemning the practice of stealing body parts for trophies. But by then, it was too late. Servicemen had recipes for cleaning skulls.
As well as hilarious poses with skulls all worked out and everything.
The mindset of stealing Japanese bones for fun was already set in stone. FDR himself had to refuse a letter opener made from a leg bone. It's like the whole fucking country lost their minds. The only good news concerning the whole national disgrace was that American readers who saw the Life report were outraged -- not just at the thought of the pictures reaching the Japanese and spurring disgusted rage (which they did), but of just ... gross. Americans were supposed to better than that. Turns out, we weren't.
So among the topics you never ever approach with Grandpops, like gays in the military and Lady Gaga, be sure to never ever ask if he brought any souvenirs home from the Pacific. Okay? Okay.
WARNING: It gets much worse from here.