Sunday, November 14, 2010

have one baby for the Führer



Last night, I finished a really interesting book- I flew through this one, I literally couldn't put it down. Lately, I've been reading a lot of Holocaust fiction and this one, My Enemy's Cradle, by Sara Young, certainly fit the bill.

From amazon-

From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. Children's-book author Young (who, as Sara Pennypacker, penned the celebrated Stuart series) makes a stunning adult debut with this beautifully told and heart-wrenching novel set in WWII Europe. Cyrla, half-Jewish, is no longer safe hiding in the home of her Dutch relatives under the increasingly harsh Nazi occupation. When cousin Annika, whom Cyrla closely resembles, becomes pregnant by a German soldier, Annika's father enrolls her in a Lebensborn, a birthing center for Aryan children, where the slogan is 'have one baby for the Führer.' In a tragic turn of events, Cyrla discovers her only chance of survival is to hide in plain sight: she must assume Annika's identity and live in the German Lebensborn until rescued. Within the Lebensborn's walls, mothers-to-be receive proper nutrition and medical care until their children are taken from them for adoption into Aryan families. The horrors Cyrla witnesses are softened only by her resounding optimism and strength.

I have read a good deal on this subject, but hadn't read anything like this before. I knew very little about the idea of a lebensborn, but isn't the purpose of a good book to introduce you to something new?

This book had a good deal of twists and turns and while I have read enough about the Holocaust to know that it was far from a pretty time in history, there were still passages that shocked me, that made me close my eyes for a monent in horror.

A lebensborn would house girls as young as 14 and 15 who were expecting babies. The fathers were Nazi soldiers, and in many cases, the girls didn't know the father at all. They only knew that they wanted to produce as many children as they could, because that is what was expected of them and that was their contribution to the cause. The children were taken from the young mothers and adopted out to German families. Before entering the lebensborn, the young mothers-to-be were tested to be sure that they were pure in the sense that Nazi Germany was looking for- blond, blue eyes, Aryan. Perfect.

Cryla was an intriguing character. I found myself talking to her throughout the book, urging her to look a certain way or think a certain thought. Maybe this was because I know the tragic history of Nazi Germany, or maybe I found myself identifying with her in some mysterious way. That might sound like a bizarre thought, as I did not grow up in WWII Europe, but I can identify with her passion for life, what she thinks is right and her fierce determination to protect the ones she loves the most in this world.

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