Book Review: Cradles of the Reich by Jennifer Coburn

“You, my dear, are perfection,” he said. “I have been waiting for a girl with your features since we started the program four years ago.”

Jennifer Coburn, Cradles of the Reich

Title: Cradles of the Reich
Author: Jennifer Coburn
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 320 (Kindle)
Publish Date: October 11th, 2022

My Rating: ★★★★
Read: 8/6/2022 – 8/11/2022

Review:

The Nazi breeding program seems to be one of those things that people have inklings about but sounds too dystopian to entertain the thought too much. Kudos to Jennifer Coburn for tackling this lesser-spoken time in history. Not only does she illustrate victims, but also those who embraced the program.

The book follows Gundi, Irma, and Hilde, three women with vastly different stories that all intertwine in Heim Hochland. The three have different roles and backgrounds: Hilde is there to produce Aryan children, specifically the child of a Nazi officer, Gundi is carrying a Jewish man’s baby and can only pray the child will inherit her Aryan features rather than his Jewish looks, and Irma is a nurse at Heim Hochland seeing to the needs of the mothers to be.

Of the three, I liked Gundi’s story the best and found it to be the most fleshed out with her being both part of the Resistance as well as a resident of the maternity home. Her and Irma’s relationship was so sweet. That being said, I enjoyed Irma’s POV immensely as well and her journey as she comes to learn more about the true reason for her work at the maternity home. As for Hilde, her story is both difficult and interesting to read. Difficult because it’s uncomfortable being placed in the mindset of someone who wants to contribute to the Nazi party, especially in such a way as being a breeder. Interesting because it’s not a perspective you’ll often see visited nowadays. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be as a writer to take on a character like this.

Hilde’s storyline sort of drops off toward the end, making Gundi and Irma the ultimate protagonists of the book. Their stories were solid enough that Hilde was a bit of a third wheel, but it did add something having that not-so-pleasant POV. It added a layer of harsh reality to the situation. There were women willing to compromise themselves for the sake of producing the ‘perfect’ child and people willing to bring harm to those who didn’t fit the bill.

There’s a lot going on in the book, but there’s a lot to cover and a lot of intricacies that make up the bigger picture. I don’t know a whole lot about this program, but it appears to be thoroughly researched which I always appreciate. I’m curious to look more into the subject now.

A huge thanks to the author for inviting me to read the ARC through NetGalley! I plan on buying a physical copy once the book is released.

Likes & Dislikes:

What I liked:

  • The differences between each of the characters. Gundi and Hilde are both expectant mothers, but with very different ideals. Irma is older and in a different position than the two younger women.
  • The inclusion of German and Yiddish vocabulary.
  • Sister Dorothea!
  • The subject matter, though sickening as it is to think about the technicalities.

What I didn’t like:

  • The story was often busy, leading to a couple of sections being difficult to follow.
  • I wouldn’t have minded one more follow up chapter with Hilde.

Afterthoughts:

Overall, an informative and enjoyable book. I’ve only ever heard of the breeding program mentioned and theorized in non-fiction books so it was great to read a fictional take that provides insight through different characters. I’m looking forward to adding this book to my permanent collection.

Where to buy the book:

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