“Every historical fiction novel should strive to be this compelling, well-researched and just flat-out good.” — Associated Press
For fans of The Nightingale and The Handmaid’s Tale, Cradles of the Reich uncovers a topic rarely explored in fiction: the Lebensborn project, a Nazi breeding program to create a so-called master race. Through thorough research and with deep empathy, this chilling historical novel goes inside one of the Lebensborn Society maternity homes that existed in several countries during World War II, where thousands of "racially fit" babies were bred and taken from their mothers to be raised as part of the new Germany.
At the Heim Hochland maternity home in Bavaria, three women’s lives coverage as they find themselves there under very different circumstances. Gundi is a pregnant university student from Berlin. An Aryan beauty, she's secretly a member of a resistance group. Hilde, only eighteen, is a true believer in the cause and is thrilled to carry a Nazi official's child. And Irma, a 44-year-old nurse, is desperate to build a new life for herself after personal devastation. Despite their opposing beliefs, all three have everything to lose as they begin to realize they are trapped within Hitler’s terrifying scheme to build a Nazi-Aryan nation.
A cautionary tale for modern times told in stunning detail, Cradles of the Reich uncovers a little-known Nazi atrocity but also carries an uplifting reminder of the power of women to set aside differences and work together in solidarity in the face of oppression.
“Skillfully researched and told with great care and insight, here is a World War II story whose lessons should not—must not—be forgotten." — Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things
Coburn returns to fiction (after the memoir We'll Always Have Paris) with a chilling tale of a Nazi maternity home. When the unmarried Gundi Schiller's family doctor confirms her pregnancy in 1939, German authorities force her to live at Heim Hochland, a maternity home for the "racially pure" near Munich. Gundi abhors the Lebensborn program, but knows she must acquiesce and never reveal the identity of her child's father, Leo Solomon, a Jewish member of the resistance. By contrast, Hilde Kramer, pregnant by the married Obergruppenführer Werner Ziegler, believes her spot at Heim Hochland lends her prestige. Nurse Irma Binz, a patriotic German with a tragic past, takes a job at Heim Hochland at the urging of an old friend. Amid revelations of the home's practice of allowing women to voluntarily have sex with Nazi officers, the stories of the three central characters play out. As Hilde takes desperate measures after a health crisis to achieve her aspirations, Irma's friendships with the women in the home put a strain on her loyalty to the fascist country, especially when it comes to the danger faced by Gundi and her daughter. Coburn's characters are rather pat, and the broad outlines of the plot are predictable. Still, she brings to life the twisted realities of the Lebensborn program. Though lackluster as fiction, it offers an illuminating look at the period.
The idea is good, the stories don’t really connect and you never grow to love the characters.
This book described repulsive sexual details that ruined my interest in reading more.
The characters were boring and predictable.
After reading half way through I skimmed to the ending, only because my book group picked it to discuss; otherwise I wouldn’t have read anymore.