My Enemy's Cradle
Harcourt, 2008 (2008)
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Reviewed by Barbara Lingens
ne of the lesser known activities that took place in Nazi Germany was the Lebensborn Program. Designed to foster the
that was so desired and to offset the loss of males suffered during World War I, the program provided shelter for pregnant women and adoption for the children. The women had to pass tests before being allowed to enter, and the father had to be a Nazi. In time, women from conquered countries became part of this program, provided they passed the tests. Apparently, there were, for example, as many as ten Lebensborn homes set up in Norway alone.
uthor Young has admirably attempted to fashion a story from this material. Cyrla, a half-Jewish adolescent sent from Poland to live with her Dutch aunt's family, finds in the increasingly dangerous circumstances of the Nazi occupation that she can trust no one. When her cousin suddenly and tragically dies, Cyrla, who looks very much like the deceased, becomes convinced that she will be safe in the Dutch Lebensborn home not too far away from her relatives. But things do not go at all as planned.
his is a gripping story, and Young gives us a very real picture of what life might have been like in one of those homes and how harrowing it could be to have a life-threatening secret. Our sympathies toward Cyrla increase as she manages somehow to recover and grow from many important mistakes. My one reservation about the book is that it is really only about Lebensborn; the book ends, with a brief epilogue, as soon as Cyrla makes her harrowing escape from the home. Yet, the epilogue, which takes place in 1947, indicates there was much more to her story and to that of the people she loved. This would have made the novel much longer, but ever so much more satisfying.
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