Sunday, December 19, 2010
My Enemy's Cradle, By Sarah Young
This is for Historical Tapestry's blog challenge: Y is for Young.
Cyrla is a young Dutch-Polish girl sent to Holland by her Jewish father, who hoped to hide her from Hitler's new laws. But after a few tragic twists of fate, Cyrla ends up hidden in a program that advanced some of the Nazis' most cherished ideals.
Germany's occupation of the Netherlands makes it increasingly dangerous for Cyrla to hide her Jewish background, even with her blond hair and Christian aunt's family. She finds escape by impersonating her pregnant cousin Anneke and taking Anneke's place in a Lebensborn - a home for pregnant women. The Lebensborn are intended by their founder Heinrich Himmler to advance the Aryan bloodline: when applying, Anneke had to prove, to her disgust, her Aryan purity. When Cyrla takes her place she is surprised to find herself sent to Germany, away from the Jewish lover who promised to save her. As Cyrla's belly grows with her unborn child, she must keep herself and her baby alive by hiding the secret of her identity.
My Enemy's Cradle takes its greatest strength from the unusual setting of the Lebensborn. The facility is a beautiful prison for mothers-to-be, both wed and unwed, where they fill their waiting days with lessons on sanitation and nutrition. The babies who are unwanted are given to SS families that promise to raise them as faithful Nazis. It is a chilling and fascinating chapter of history. I was less fond of Cyrla, who often seems petulant and unperceptive. But in spite of her shortcomings her story is capitvating and moving, even with a tear-jerker finale. It is definitely a worthwhile read.