I’ve been incredibly impressed by the books being published by Elliott & Thompson, and you’ll know that I’ve recently featured quite a few here on Being Anne, all with an emphasis on the natural world. Today I wanted to tell you about something very different. A couple of years ago, Elliott & Thompson published a remarkable first-person account of a child, kidnapped by the Nazi state and ‘given’ to a suitable SS couple to raise. Ingrid Von Oelhafen’s story has really struck a chord with readers (as a quick look at Goodreads will testify), and E&T have decided to release Hitler’s Forgotten Children: The Shocking True Story of the Nazi Kidnapping Conspiracy in paperback on 4 May. I’m delighted to be able to offer the chance to win one of three paperback copies – because this is a slice of history that as many people as possible should know about.
A powerful first-person account from a child of the Lebensborn: the Nazis’ programme to create an Aryan master race.
Forcibly adopted into a Nazi family as part of the Lebensborn programme, Ingrid’s heart breaking story is a quest for her own identity and an important historical document, touching on the untold stories of thousands like her.
By the 1940s, Himmler’s breeding programme had failed to provide adequate numbers of ‘racially pure and healthy’ children, so Lebensborn sought to boost the flagging German population by sinister means. Children in the occupied territories were examined and any exhibiting ‘Aryan’ qualities were taken from their parents by force to be raised by the regime.
In 1942 Erika, a baby girl from Yugoslavia, was examined by the Nazi occupiers, declared an ‘Aryan’ and removed from her mother. Her true identity erased, she became Ingrid von Oelhafen.
Later, as Ingrid began to uncover her true identity, the full scale of the Lebensborn scheme became clear – including the kidnapping of up to half a million babies like her, and the deliberate murder of children born into the programme who were deemed ‘substandard’.
“I had lost my families – both the Matkos and the von Oelhafens – but I knew now that there were others like me. In the years since I began the investigation into my own history, thousands of other Lebensborn survivors have begun to come forward, to share with each other and with the wider world the story of the Nazis’ terrible experiment. Today I draw comfort from this essentially extended family. All those who I have met – whether born into the Lebensborn program or kidnapped to strengthen it – have been scarred by their experience.”
We also learn of Ingrid’s subsequent troubled childhood in Germany; first during the war, then a terrifying escape from the GDR, time in a number of children’s homes and the shock of discovering as a teenager that she was adopted. Later, her search for the truth about her history took her to little-known records of the Nuremberg Trials, and, ultimately, back to Yugoslavia, where an extraordinary discovery revealed the full truth behind her story: the Nazis had substituted ‘Ingrid’ with another child, who had been raised as ‘Erika’ by her family.
I’d like to share some of the quotes about the book:
“A moving memoir … That the Nazis, operating under complex notions of racial superiority and Aryan purity, were obsessed with eugenics and committed to “ethnic cleansing” is far from news. What von Oelhafen brings to the story is a personal dimension.” Kirkus
“Every person I have told about this book has immediately gone to buy it and I encourage everyone else to do so as it is a story that needs to be told, much like the Holocaust needed to be told.” CountryWives.com
“As with some of the best depictions of historical events, this book works so well because it focuses on the human impact of political decisions. We see exactly how Ingrid’s lack of identity has impacted her life and she shares a number of short anecdotes which illustrate how other people have been affected by their experiences as Lebensborn children. … This is a hugely important book which anyone with an interest in the Third Reich, or who cares about the damaging impact of supremacist politics, must read.” Louisereviews.com
I already have my copy, which I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read – but I have dipped in and found it eminently readable, a perfect mixture of personal discovery and a historical backdrop that both fascinates and horrifies. If you’re as drawn to this book and its subject as I am, here’s the Rafflecopter to win one of three paperback copies (UK only), with thanks to Alison Menzies at Elliott & Thompson:
The blog tour continues – do visit the other stops…
About the authors
Ingrid Von Oelhafen is a former physical therapist living in Osnabruck, Germany. For more than 20 years she has been investigating her own extraordinary story and that of Lebensborn. She is in contact with other Lebensborn survivors and has been invited to give talks in schools about the programme and its effects on those who were part of it.
Tim Tate is a multi-award-winning documentary filmmaker and author. In 2013 he produced and directed a film about the Lebensborn programme, Channel 5’s Children of the Master Race, which is when he met Ingrid and convinced her to write this book. He is the author of twelve books, including the best-selling Slave Girl (2009).