Cra­dles of the Reich: A Novel

September 1, 2021

Three women, a nation seduced by a mad­man, and the Nazi breed­ing pro­gram to cre­ate a so called mas­ter race. At Heim Hochland, a Nazi breed­ing home in Bavaria, three women’s fates are irrev­o­ca­bly inter­twined. Gun­di is a preg­nant uni­ver­si­ty stu­dent from Berlin. An Aryan beau­ty, she’s secret­ly a mem­ber of a resis­tance group. Hilde, only eigh­teen, is a true believ­er in the cause and is thrilled to car­ry a Nazi official’s child. And Irma, a 44-year-old nurse, is des­per­ate to build a new life for her­self after per­son­al dev­as­ta­tion. All three have every­thing to lose. Based on untold his­tor­i­cal events, this nov­el brings us inti­mate­ly inside the Lebens­born Soci­ety mater­ni­ty homes that actu­al­ly exist­ed in sev­er­al coun­tries dur­ing World War II, where thou­sands of racial­ly fit” babies were bred and tak­en from their moth­ers to be raised as part of the new Ger­many. But it proves that in a dark peri­od of his­to­ry, the con­nec­tions women forge can car­ry us through, even dri­ving us to hero­ism we didn’t know we had with­in us.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Jen­nifer Coburn

  1. The author of Cra­dles of the Reich is Jew­ish and says she had nev­er heard of the Lebens­born Soci­ety before she was 50 years old. Had you heard of the Nazi breed­ing pro­gram before? Why do you think so few peo­ple know about the program?

  2. Com­pare Hilde and Gundi’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the Novem­ber pogroms the Nazis called Kristall­nacht. Did either of them real­ly under­stand the broad­er con­text of that night?

  3. Gun­di dis­cov­ers a deep con­nec­tion with the Jew­ish faith and cul­ture and wants to con­vert. What is it about Judaism that appeals to her so much?

  4. Why do you think Leo is so hos­tile toward Gun­di at first? Why is she so sur­prised by this?

  5. What do you think hap­pened to Leo and the Solomons? Why do you think the author choose to leave read­ers in the dark about their fate?

  6. There are many exam­ples of the Reich’s coor­di­nat­ed effort to dehu­man­ize Jews, from the board game Juden Raus to the pic­ture book about poi­so­nous mush­rooms to the doc­u­men­tary, The Eter­nal Jew. How do these mate­ri­als relate to Lotte’s insis­tence that great things only hap­pen when strong peo­ple make dif­fi­cult choices”?

  7. Put your­self in Gundi’s shoes when she learns that the father of her child has been framed for a crime and sent to a labor camp. Would you be able to keep your secret? Would you look for a way to help Leo?

  8. If you had five min­utes to speak with Hilde as a young child, what would you tell her?

  9. Gundi’s escape from Heim Hochland almost fails sev­er­al times. Which close call made you the most nervous?

  10. Irma says that she doesn’t want to live in a world where help­ing peo­ple sur­vive is remark­able. How can we make that more ordi­nary in the mod­ern day?