THE RUNDOWN: SYNOPSIS & Media reviews
In this gripping historical novel, the secret and little-known world of the Lebensborn Society maternity homes during World War II is carefully examined. Thousands of babies deemed “racially fit” were taken from their mothers and raised as part of the new Germany. But amidst the darkness of this period, the unbreakable bonds forged by women provide a glimmer of hope. The story follows a group of women who find themselves thrown together in one of these homes, and as they navigate the horrors of war and the cruelty of the Nazi regime, they discover strength and heroism they never knew they possessed. Based on true events, this novel is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of female friendship in the face of unimaginable adversity.
The Cradles of the Reich sheds light on the Third Reich’s pursuit of its eugenic goals, a topic that has not received adequate attention in literature. Through three distinct but interwoven perspectives, the book focuses on Lebensborn, a Nazi-sponsored initiative aimed at increasing the number of Aryan children in Germany. Coburn’s fictional characters face emotional devastation and moral dilemmas, bringing the “racial hygiene” project into reality. The novel follows Gundi, a member of the resistance who is pregnant with her Jewish lover’s child; Hilde, a young girl eager to climb the ranks of the Reich, even if it means sleeping with a married SS member; and Irma, a nurse at Heim Hochland, the Lebensborn maternity home where most of the story takes place. Each character must confront their own ethical beliefs under the influence of Nazi propaganda and the consequences of resisting the party’s agenda.
The Lebensborn project is an exemplification of Nazi ideology, with leading party members once referring to Nazism as “applied biology.” The book is set in Heim Hochland, a fascinating and horrifying location where the girls chat and gossip despite the brutal atmosphere. The novel reveals the complex inner lives of those who participated in the anti-Semitism of the Third Reich. The main characters each have secrets of their own, adding to the gripping and suspenseful plot. The historical details are seamlessly woven into the story without overshadowing character development.
The Cradles of the Reich is an educational and emotionally moving novel that highlights aspects of Nazi Germany that are often overlooked. Coburn humanizes, without condoning, the women who willingly participated in the Nazi project of eugenics, as well as those who had no choice but still managed to resist. One of the most chilling moments in the book is when the sinister Dr. Ebner violates Gundi during an “examination” , “Gundi, do you know why we measured you? … It turns out that you are a perfect specimen of German womanhood,” this reveals how Nazism reduced human beings into scientific studies.
“Every historical fiction novel should strive to be this compelling, well-researched and just flat-out good.” — Associated Press
Though CRADLES OF THE REICH is a work of fiction, Heim Hochland was one of the actual maternity homes; and I featured historical figures, including Nazi Party officials such as Lebensborn physician SS-Oberführer Gregor Ebner and Women’s League leader Reichsfrauenführerin Gertrud Scholtz-Klink. Gundi, Hilde, and Irma are fictional characters, but Hilde was inspired by a real Lebensborn volunteer—Jennifer Coburn. Read here: The story behind the novel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Coburn is the author of Cradles of the Reich, a historical novel about three very different women living at a Nazi Lebensborn breeding home at the start of World War ll.
She has also published a mother-daughter travel memoir, We’ll Always Have Paris, as well as six contemporary women’s novels. Additionally, Jennifer has contributed to five literary anthologies, including A Paris All Your Own.
Jennifer lives in San Diego with her husband, William. Their daughter, Katie is currently in graduate school. When Jennifer is not going down historical research rabbit holes, she volunteers with So Say We All, a live storytelling organization, where she is a performer, producer, and performance coach. She is also an active volunteer with Reality Changers, a nonprofit that supports low-income high school students in becoming the first in their families to attend college. She specializes in college essay development, and interview prep.
Marly Rusoff of Marly Rusoff Literary Agency.
To visit Jennifer Coburn’s website and join the mailing list for community updates, click here.
The hopes and dreams of three women collide in this shocking story about a little-known Nazi breeding home in Bavaria. Jennifer Coburn has written a brave and highly original novel; fans of historical fiction will find it compelling―and indeed essential―reading. — Kitty Zeldis, author of Not Our Kind
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