Cover Image: Cradles of the Reich

Cradles of the Reich

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Set in 1939 Berlin, this is the story of three women of varying opinion of the Nazi Party’s leadership in Germany. Due to differing circumstances, they are placed at the Heim Hochland in Steinhöring Bavaria, a Lebensborn Society Home. It is an Aryan breeding retreat. Established by Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, Heim Hochland “provides the very best maternity care for racially pure girls until their babies are born.” It also serves as a brothel for Nazi officers. In addition it acts as an adoption agency for Aryan children orphaned during the war.

Gundi, is young and pregnant with a baby whose father, Leo is Jewish. Hilde, is young and naive. She is pregnant from Obergruppenführer Warner Ziegler, a married Nazi more than twice her age. Irma, is a nurse who served in the Great War at Potsdam Military Hospital.

I had mixed feelings on the book. It contained excellent historical detail. The story was easy to read and definitely interesting and informative. I felt it lacked depth in character development and felt a bit like a YA. It ended abruptly and feels like it needs a sequel. I also wished it had been more balanced between the three women’s viewpoints, too much focus on only one. Also, I felt the comparison of Nazism to white supremacy in the US was odd and reduced credibility.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Jennifer Coburn, and Sourcebooks Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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A really eye opening book to the evils of the Reich, and to the brain washing many of these women endured. I appreciate Coburn bringing this site of history to life.

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Cradles of the Reich offers an up close and personal look at what the Hitler regime was willing to do in the name of racial purity. In the story, a few of the women involved are the focus, but their stories could not be more different.

Hilde, at eighteen, is a staunch believer in Hitler’s policies. She wants nothing more than to be a standout German and give birth to pure German babies. Her married German lover sends her to Heim Hochland when he learns of her pregnancy. Her misguided beliefs lead her to drastic measures when she miscarries her baby.

Gundi, a perfect example of a pure German woman is pregnant and everyone mistakenly believes the father is her pure-blood childhood friend. Gundi’s love interest just happens to be Jewish and she joins him in his work for the resistance. When she becomes pregnant, she is more or less kidnapped and sent to Heim Hochland, a home for pregnant German mothers to receive the best of care for their babies.

Irma, a childless nurse at the home, realizes that she has misjudged her former fiancé and at a pivotal point in the story decides to follow his lead in offering compassion to the Jewish people.

Don’t read the story without reading the author’s notes at the end. It’s a very compelling part of the German history. Jennifer Coburn writes a somewhat mild version of the facts, so readers should not be wary of any violence against the mothers and the children.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for allowing me to read an advance copy. I am happy to offer my honest review.

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Wow, the depths of awfulness powerful people in the world can inflect on others never ceases amaze me. This a story I had never heard about. Although I would like to pretend this kind of thing never happened, I can't. Coburn brings this part of the war to light in a gripping novel. Not a beach read, but a weekend by yourself with no interruptions don't put down sort of book.

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A gripping story about how two young people in the same world can have such vastly different experiences and beliefs and the older who is the voice of experience. If you enjoy WWII fiction, this one will be right up your alley! Told from 3 perspectives and a storyline that weaves all of them together. This tale gives an inside look into the lives of three women caught up in the dark side of the Reich and the choices they make to survive.

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The devious Nazis wanted to create a pure Aryan race, minus any imperfections, disabilities, or mental illness. To do so, they selected certain woman who were pregnant and some who they desired to be pregnant were sent to special homes where they were treated well and cared for.
This book focuses on three of this women (fictional) that found themselves in one of the Lebensborn Society maternity homes.

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Historical fiction is one of those genres that I have a love/hate relationship with. I love learning something new when I read them, but I am torn with that love because of the story.

Cradles of the Reich had my heart twisted. I never knew this type of "maternity" home existed, but am not surprised about it. I fell in love with Gundi and Irma as they go along trying to find their way in the situation they are placed. Hilde is a complex character and while she is a villain of sorts I felt bad for her.

I enjoyed this one overall and would recommend for historical fiction fans. I sincerely appreciate the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

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I am a fan of historical fiction and when I read the description to this book, I felt very intrigued by it. I have read multiple historical fiction books based on the time of the Nazi invasion or Europe. but had very minimal knowledge of the Lebensborn program. I enjoyed that the story was told from the perspective of three different woman who each were at different paths during this time period. There was the resistance fighter (Gundi), the party enthusiast (Hilde), and older generation nurse (Irma), each showing a different side to the Lebensborn program, each involved in a very different way, I loved being able to see this situation from each point of view.

The author was able to provide a very factual book, you can really tell that the author took her time and did her research to make sure to stay as true to the situation as possible. As I read and learned more about the Nazi situation and program the more I found myself going on google to learn about each aspect that was being brought up, as I wanted to know more. People are aware that Nazis did bad things, but the extend to which they did is unknown to many, which is where I recommend this book to everyone. This was a quick, easy and heartbreaking read that kept my attention throughout the whole book.

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Thank you to Jennifer Coburn Netgalley SourceBooks for this #ARCbook #ebook in exchange for my honest review.

This historical fiction book is based on the very true, and very disturbing Nazi program "Lebensborn Society" to create a racially fit society during WWII. The novel follows 3 German women through the deep, dark, and horrifying world that the Nazis were attempting to build during that time.

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Jennifer Coburn, Author of “Cradles of the Reich,” has written an intense and memorable novel that depicts the dark, turbulent, and disturbing reality that occurred during Adolf Hitler’s leadership. The genres for this novel are Historical Fiction, World War Two Historical Fiction, and Women’s Literature and Fiction. I appreciate the amount of research that Jennifer Coburn has investigated to give this story such insightful and intense meaning. The story mainly occurs inside the LEBENSBORN Society Maternity Home at Heim Hochland in Bavaria. This was part of Hitler’s mad scheme to create a master race, and several homes were maternity and “breeding homes.” Pregnant German single and married girls with Aryian features were encouraged to give birth to their babies there. Other German girls would entertain Gestapo and German soldiers with the hope of getting pregnant. The story takes place during this time period and goes to the past when it pertains to the characters or events.

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Is anyone safe in Germany…especially the perfect female examples of the German race.

Gundi is one of the perfect, gorgeous German women chosen by the Reich to bear perfect children to create the master race. She does have a secret, though. Actually she has two secrets.

We meet Hilde who is a staunch follower of the Reich and one of the women who is willing to help fill Germany with perfect children.

And we meet Irma a former nurse and 44 years old. She will be the one encouraging the unwed mothers to stay healthy so they deliver these perfect children.

We meet these women during this dark time in history and at Lebensborn Society maternity home where women arrive already pregnant or will become pregnant by an approved German officer.

Ms. Coburn did amazing, thorough research on a topic I never knew about.

Historical fiction fans will enjoy CRADLES OF THE REICH.

There are many sensitive and heartbreaking topics addressed, and this idea of using German women in this way is something I couldn’t believe. 4/5

This book was given to me by the author via NetGalley for an honest review.

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“‘In the four years the Lebensborn Society has been in existence, do you know how many girls have met one hundred percent of our criteria for genetic and aesthetic perfection?’ Dr Ebner paused, ‘One. One girl— you, Gundi.’”

This is a disturbing read.

Not because of the writing but because of the subject matter: Lebensborn Society circa WWII where the Germans sought to create perfect humans using a breeding process. It’s disturbing because of the indoctrination we know happened in Nazi Germany.

This book focuses on a unique facet of the war which differentiates it from so many other WWII novels and made it interesting to read, but unfortunately the ending left much to be desired.

Cradles of the Reich follows three characters who find themselves at Heim Hochland, one of the Germans’ centers to breed ‘racially pure’ babies for Hitler. Coburn indicates in her author’s note that she wanted to explore characters with three different attitudes a German citizen may have had.

- Gundi: the perfect German ‘specimen’ but is secretly part of the Resistance against the Nazis and wants no part of their program

“‘Gundi, If you want to do something, it can’t be because you want to help the Jews. It has to be because you understand, heart and soul, that we are all inextricable bound. We don’t need a savior. We need allies.’”

- Irma: the motherly nurse who hears the bad things that are happening but thinks it can’t be as bad as everyone says

“‘That’s the problem, Gundi, I don’t want to be in a world where helping one another survive is remarkable.’”

- Hilde: young and enamored with an SS officer, excited to do her part to bear children for the Reich

“She was a woman of substance who understood that the most important thing about a man was the kind of life he could provide for her.”

The chapters change perspectives between the three women as they find themselves at the house intended to ‘care for’ pregnant women who are bringing racially pure children into the world.

Gundi tried to run away and escape the program but was back and basically forced to remain there. Irma is just trying to do good in the world by helping bring life into it. Hilde is desperate to bear children in this program and will do whatever it takes to be successful and wanted.

Eugenics and Abortion

It’s pretty unreal to think about these kinds of centers existing. That the Nazis thought they could identify the perfect race and create a world like that— especially considering Hitler wasn’t even Aryan…

And yet, I can’t help but think about abortion in the United States.

We scoff and are disgusted by the practices contained in this book to create perfect humans, and yet culture approves and celebrates abortion which is essentially doing the same thing. Babies are killed if they are not perfect— they may have one ‘defect’ or another— or they are inconvenient, unwanted. We are lying to ourselves if we believe abortion in America is any different than the eugenics vision of Hitler.

All life is inherently valuable. It is simply a person’s human-ness that makes them worthy of life: not their skin color, their number of limbs, their number of chromosomes, the abilities of their minds, or the functioning of their senses.

Hopefully this book can remind us of the value of human life and stop us from trying to create ‘perfect’ families by keeping certain babies out of them.

The Ending

Why was the ending disappointing?

Because it was abrupt. And it was incomplete.

One of the characters makes an escape attempt but it’s at like 80% of the way through. And then the book is just over. We don’t even know what becomes of one of the characters. And even the woman who tries to escape we don’t get any information about her family or the father of the child or even what her future holds.

Considering the author creates a story where these three very different characters come together in the same house, you’d think we would get a fuller picture of how their attitudes change or influence one another.

I just needed so much more information at the end.


I would recommend this book if you enjoy all WWII books and love learning about more aspects of what happened during the war and how people endured different types of hardship. If you are interested in learning about the Lebensborn Society, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

If you like to have satisfying and complete endings, I wouldn’t recommend this one. I think you’ll be disappointed like I was.

It had so much potential and the ending really took away from it.

I also would not recommend this book if pregnancy or miscarriage is a sensitive subject for you. They are both major parts of the book and may be too much for some women.

[Content Advisory: 1 f-word, 0 s-words; one minor character is gay; considering the premise of the book there is frequent talk of sex and pregnancy; trigger warning for miscarriage]

**Received an ARC via NetGalley**

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War changes people for the better, but also for the worst. In the face of danger the characters gave in, but a few grew stronger and more determined to survive and do what is right. A very thought provoking book about what war does to people. It was sad and hopeful at the same time. I recommend it often with a warning.

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I enjoyed reading this historical story. This is a story that brings you to a dark part of history where three women that will prove to you that heros are just not men but great women as well. I found this book to be well written and hard to put down. I enjoyed how the author used their writing skills to not only pull you into the story but made it feel realistic. I enjoyed the characters and their determination. They are strong, supportive characters you don't want to miss. They add so much to the story. This is a fast paced, engaging story that is hard to put down. There is great growth of the characters as well as the plot throughout the story. I really enjoyed reading this story and I highly recommend it.

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An interesting book with a part of WWII history previously unknown to me. The story was good, but the ending seemed rushed.

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This is my review as posted on Goodreads:

I am grateful to the publishers for allowing me to read and review a copy of this book.

I remember reading about the Lebensborn Society project in passing in a few other novels set during WW2, but this was the first novel I have read set entirely in a maternity home. It was intriguing and horrifying all at the same time. I thought the way the author weaves together the stories of three very different women was brilliant. I also loved that she wrote a complex character from a different POV than most books by adding Hilde, who was so brainwashed by the Nazi party. It was all so fascinating!

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially WW2.

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As with most Holocaust books, this is very disturbing, yet an important story to be told. I had trouble keeping track of the three different characters at times but this is a worthwhile story that will appeal to many and be popular with book clubs.

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Going into this book I was a little nervous as I had never read anything by this author before and this is a portion of history that I don't know a lot about. This book is good and does show the realities of what women went through during WWII who were young and looked a certain way.

In the past, I have briefly heard about the young women who were being used to help create the next german generation during WWII but it is something that isn't really talked about when you mention this point in history.

“In the four years the Lebensborn Society has been in existence, do you know how many girls have met one hundred percent of our criteria for genetic and aesthetic perfection?” Dr. Ebner paused again, turning to Dr. Vogel, then Elsbeth. “One. One girl—you, Gundi.”

The young women who were being used and lied to in order to create the next generation of ideal German children is one that is heartbreaking for many different reasons. But as for this book, the author does the story justice. She is able to do this through the three different POVs and how they are each in different stages of this story. From the nurse (Irma) who ended up figuring out what was going on and was not okay with it, to the university student (Gundi) who ended up getting pregnant and lied about her child's true father in order to protect everyone, and then you have the german true believer (Hilde) who wants to become important by any means necessary.

"Irma had serious misgivings about how these young women were being used, but her love for the girls was absolute."

Overall this book was interesting and did bring light to a time in history that is very seldom talked about. I did have my favorites while reading this book and for the vast majority of the book that was Gundi because of all that she was giving up and just hoping and praying that it would all work out in order to keep everyone safe. I did slowly warm up to Irma as time went on and we saw more of her compassion showing. As for Hilde, I could never like her throughout any of the book, did I feel bad for her? yes at times I did because of how desperate she was, but I never cared for her portion of the storyline. It was important though to see all the different sides of what was happening at Heim Hochland to get a real feel of what they were all going through and what was expected of them.

"The Nazis were stealing from the Jews; they were robbing German girls of their innocence."

Because this is a little talked about portion of WWII, not a lot can be found on it due to records being destroyed and people not wanting to admit that they were a part of it in order to keep their families safe after the war. The author did a good job of putting the pieces together of what could have happened, while also making a fictionalized tale to show what the young women went through.

“If you want to do something, it can’t be because you want to help the Jews. It has to be because you understand, heart and soul, that we are all inextricably bound. We don’t need a savior. We need allies.

(Read a finished copy from the library.)

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From the moment this book starts, it fills you with a real example of life under the Nazis.

I love how the characters are intertwined and woven together throughout.

I have read several historical fiction about WWII and this was a new topic I wasn't familiar with. It was definitely and eye-opening (and horrifying) concept.

I loved the fresh take. Definitely worth a read!

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Different (and disturbing) take on this time in history. Character development was great. Love some, hate some.

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