My Enemy’s Cradle by Sara Young has to be one of the best historical fiction books I have come across. This introduced a completely new part of history I wasn’t even familiar with. I know that there are many facets of history and even in just one part of it like WWII there are too many little nuances that it is almost impossible to know it all. This particular book addresses one of them, the Lebonsborn.
Ok kiddies history lesson time. As many people know Hitler wanted to create a perfect society. The perfect society was made up of blonde hair, blue-eyed people. All others were seen as imperfect and should be disposed of. Since this is not naturally occurring he had to orchestrate and nurture the spreading of the perfect specimen. Part of this plan was to take any women who got pregnant by Nazi soldiers and send them to hospitals/institutions to be cared for. Once this perfect child was born and they met the standards for a good Nazi child they were then taken away from the mother and given to a good Nazi family. Most of these women brought to these homes were from occupied countries like Norway, Sweden or Holland. For those children not meeting the standards like those born deaf, born with a cleft lip or born blind would either be exterminated or put into an institution and experimented on. This was unfortunately the Nazi policy dictated by SS leader Heinrich Himmler. This sad, disgusting part of history is definitely purposely hidden away.
Now that you know the history behind the Lebensborn I will detail the story of My Enemy’s Cradle. In the start of the book we meet Cyrla who is living with her Aunt, Uncle and Cousin Anneke. Cyrla is half-Jewish/half-Dutch. She was sent to Holland to live right before the Ghettos were getting put up in Poland. She looks enough like a Dutch girl who no one suspects she is Jewish. They must continue to hide her background once the Occupation of Holland takes place. Many restrictions are put on Jewish citizens and many start to disappear. In the meantime, her cousin Anneke begins to date a Nazi officer and eventually gets pregnant. Not long after her discovery of her pregnancy she finds that her Nazi officer is gone. Once she tells her family, her father forces her to get checked out and look into being sent to one of the homes to have and give up her child.
Anneke does not take this well. Anneke acts rashly and the consequences are dire. Now, Cyrla who has been found out to be Jewish is forced to somehow quickly get pregnant and become Anneke. Cyrla goes to the home and it is here the real story begins. Cyrla must constantly hide her heritage and must quickly step into the shoes of her cousin. Her struggle to keep up such a stressful charade and on top of everything be a first time mother just shows you the desperation of the Jewish people. While at the home you meet Karl, Anneke’s Nazi Officer and through the memory of Anneke develop a bond. This story takes you to many very dark places. Places you didn’t think existed. A story such as this is unique because this really did happen. Maybe not this particular story but these homes and these children happened.
I recommend this book for anyone interested in the history and the emotional charge that a story like this can give. You will feel heartbroken many times over and because Sara Young is such an outstanding writer you will feel as if you are right there with Cyrla. But, reader be warned, you will want to read this multiple times. You bond with the characters and the story. Even if you don’t usually read historical fiction you will want to read this one.
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