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Hitler's Forgotten Children: My Life Inside The Lebensborn

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‘More than 70 years ago I was a “gift” for Adolf Hitler. I was stolen as a baby to be part of one of the most terrible of all Nazi experiments: Lebensborn.’ Watch the 2016 interview with the author. In 1942 Erika, a baby girl from Rogaška Slatina, the Slovenian town that was renamed Sauerbrunn (another town with the same name exists in Austria, which made it harder for the ‘More than 70 years ago I was a “gift” for Adolf Hitler. I was stolen as a baby to be part of one of the most terrible of all Nazi experiments: Lebensborn.’ Watch the 2016 interview with the author. In 1942 Erika, a baby girl from Rogaška Slatina, the Slovenian town that was renamed Sauerbrunn (another town with the same name exists in Austria, which made it harder for the author to find her roots after the war) by Nazi occupiers of the northern part of Slovenia, the only present-day European nation that was trisected and completely annexed into both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during WWII, was one of many children that were stolen from their parents by the Nazi occupiers, declared an ‘Aryan’, her true identity erased, and sent to German couples who could not have their own children under the pretense that children were saved from dysfunctional families, struck by prostitution and whatnot, so she was renamed Ingrid, and given new surname "von Oelhafen". After the war, Erika/Ingrid began to uncover her true identity, the full scale of the Lebensborn scheme and the Nazi obsession with bloodlines became clear -- including the kidnapping of up to half a million babies like her and the deliberate murder of children born into the program who were deemed ‘substandard.’ The Lebensborn program was the brainchild of Himmler: an extraordinary plan to create an Aryan master race, leaving behind thousands of displaced victims in the wake of the Nazi regime. Written with insight and compassion, this is a powerful meditation on the personal legacy of Hitler’s vision, of Germany’s brutal past and of a divided Europe that for many years struggled to come to terms with its own history.


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‘More than 70 years ago I was a “gift” for Adolf Hitler. I was stolen as a baby to be part of one of the most terrible of all Nazi experiments: Lebensborn.’ Watch the 2016 interview with the author. In 1942 Erika, a baby girl from Rogaška Slatina, the Slovenian town that was renamed Sauerbrunn (another town with the same name exists in Austria, which made it harder for the ‘More than 70 years ago I was a “gift” for Adolf Hitler. I was stolen as a baby to be part of one of the most terrible of all Nazi experiments: Lebensborn.’ Watch the 2016 interview with the author. In 1942 Erika, a baby girl from Rogaška Slatina, the Slovenian town that was renamed Sauerbrunn (another town with the same name exists in Austria, which made it harder for the author to find her roots after the war) by Nazi occupiers of the northern part of Slovenia, the only present-day European nation that was trisected and completely annexed into both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during WWII, was one of many children that were stolen from their parents by the Nazi occupiers, declared an ‘Aryan’, her true identity erased, and sent to German couples who could not have their own children under the pretense that children were saved from dysfunctional families, struck by prostitution and whatnot, so she was renamed Ingrid, and given new surname "von Oelhafen". After the war, Erika/Ingrid began to uncover her true identity, the full scale of the Lebensborn scheme and the Nazi obsession with bloodlines became clear -- including the kidnapping of up to half a million babies like her and the deliberate murder of children born into the program who were deemed ‘substandard.’ The Lebensborn program was the brainchild of Himmler: an extraordinary plan to create an Aryan master race, leaving behind thousands of displaced victims in the wake of the Nazi regime. Written with insight and compassion, this is a powerful meditation on the personal legacy of Hitler’s vision, of Germany’s brutal past and of a divided Europe that for many years struggled to come to terms with its own history.

30 review for Hitler's Forgotten Children: My Life Inside The Lebensborn

  1. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    The Lebensborn program was set up to engineer the next generation of "perfect" Germans. Heinrich Himmler wrote the policies for selecting the “best”. When the German army destroyed a city, town, community, they took the "best" blond, blue eyed children, who fit the eugenic metrics of perfect Aryans for Lebensborn. Lebensborn also sheltered “healthy” unwed mothers who met standards of pure German heredity (forbears to 1800); Many were sweethearts of married SS officers. There were several of thes The Lebensborn program was set up to engineer the next generation of "perfect" Germans. Heinrich Himmler wrote the policies for selecting the “best”. When the German army destroyed a city, town, community, they took the "best" blond, blue eyed children, who fit the eugenic metrics of perfect Aryans for Lebensborn. Lebensborn also sheltered “healthy” unwed mothers who met standards of pure German heredity (forbears to 1800); Many were sweethearts of married SS officers. There were several of these nurseries/adoption facilities in Germany and occupied areas of Europe. Not every child left the home for an adopted family. Those found not to measure up in looks or behavior went to work camps and/or to their death. Ingrid von Oelhafen first describes her childhood, what she remembers of her “parents” and how she learned of her other identity. When she began her quest to find her birth parents, she had no idea that something like this existed or that this is where she spent the first few months of her life. She describes the difficulty of getting information, particularly through government sources, even for non-research purposes, like getting a passport. It took many years, but she found others from Lebensborn facilities who were also piecing together their past. She describes “the Father Finder” and how he helped her connect, at last, with what remained of her birth family. I was, at first, impatient with Ingrid’s story of her childhood, her parent’s separation, leaving East Germany, and living separately with her adoptive mother, then father and mother (again). She never explores why this cold couple would bother to adopt children. Later I saw how important this background was to who she is, and generically, the dynamics of how families kept their secrets in post-war Germany. There are short histories of the areas of importance, actual letters and documents (translated) of pertinent correspondence and official policies. There stories of other survivors and descriptions of the nurseries from their accounts and other records. There are amazing photographs. That there are still Lebensborn children alive to tell their stories reminds us that the Nazis and the horrors the brought are not ancient, but recent history.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cam

    Only took me a day to read!!! I enjoyed this biography. Majority of ww2 books have to do with Jewish prisoners in concentration camps. I went on the search to look for a book from the perspective of those that witnessed what was going on around them or how a person experienced that time period from an different perspective. Hitler’s Forgotten Children is both a harrowing personal memoir and a devastating investigation into the awful crimes and monstrous scope of the Lebensborn program in World W Only took me a day to read!!! I enjoyed this biography. Majority of ww2 books have to do with Jewish prisoners in concentration camps. I went on the search to look for a book from the perspective of those that witnessed what was going on around them or how a person experienced that time period from an different perspective. Hitler’s Forgotten Children is both a harrowing personal memoir and a devastating investigation into the awful crimes and monstrous scope of the Lebensborn program in World War 2. Created by Heinrich Himmler, the Lebensborn program abducted as many as half a million children from across Europe. Through a process called Germanization, they were to become the next generation of the Aryan master race in the second phase of the Final Solution. In the summer of 1942, parents across Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia were required to submit their children to medical checks designed to assess racial purity. One such child, Erika Matko, was nine months old when Nazi doctors declared her fit to be a “Child of Hitler.” Taken to Germany and placed with politically vetted foster parents, Erika was renamed Ingrid von Oelhafen. Many years later, Ingrid began to uncover the truth of her identity. Though the Nazis destroyed many Lebensborn records, Ingrid unearthed rare documents, including Nuremberg trial testimony about her own abduction. Following the evidence back to her place of birth, Ingrid discovered an even more shocking secret: a woman named Erika Matko, who as an infant had been given to Ingrid’s mother as a replacement child.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sinéad

    Reading Hitler's Forgotten Children reminded me yet again why I read books. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, books have great power to educate and inform whilst also encouraging critical thinking. Although I was aware of the Nazi obsession with ‘racial purity', I had never heard of the Lebensborn Programme before reading this book. Initiated by Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS in 1935, to increase Nazi Germany’s Aryan population, the programme expanded into occupied countries in Eastern Eu Reading Hitler's Forgotten Children reminded me yet again why I read books. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, books have great power to educate and inform whilst also encouraging critical thinking. Although I was aware of the Nazi obsession with ‘racial purity', I had never heard of the Lebensborn Programme before reading this book. Initiated by Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS in 1935, to increase Nazi Germany’s Aryan population, the programme expanded into occupied countries in Eastern Europe where Nazis kidnapped children and sent them to Germany for adoption by ‘racially pure’ families. Ingrid von Oelhafen was one such child and in Hitler’s Forgotten Children she documents her quest to find out where she came from and the impact her background had on her sense of identity. This is a powerful read and demonstrates that despite the intervening 75 years since the end of WW2, Nazi crimes are still reverberating throughout Europe and indeed around the world. Although reading will incite a myriad of emotions, I think it’s important that we continue to read about and discuss these stories as I firmly believe that knowledge of suffering endured by others can only lead to greater empathy and compassion.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

    This is the story of a woman who as a child was taken from her parents and given in adoption to a German couple. This is the story of a regime that stained Europe from 1939 to 1945, this is a story of Nazi Germany. She was the victim of "germanization" a word coined by Himmler himself (Hitler's second on command). Kids who looked Aryan were to be taken from families all over occupied Europe and be given to German families to be raised in Nazi Ideals, This was policy back then. In this book we wo This is the story of a woman who as a child was taken from her parents and given in adoption to a German couple. This is the story of a regime that stained Europe from 1939 to 1945, this is a story of Nazi Germany. She was the victim of "germanization" a word coined by Himmler himself (Hitler's second on command). Kids who looked Aryan were to be taken from families all over occupied Europe and be given to German families to be raised in Nazi Ideals, This was policy back then. In this book we wont see to much feeling because the author stays away from that and the story is told from an objective point of view, in the book we will see the name Hitler, Himmler, Nazis, SS, Partisans, Communism and Cold War appear all over, This is the story of a woman who was victim of the Nazi Legacy, this is the story of a continent who still bears the scars of that time. this is the story of a group of people who share the same tragic background, This is a story you should read if you want to understand modern Europe.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ctgt

    What is identity? How is it formed? And does identity shape the person-or is it the other way around? Noticed this book at the library and I had never heard of Lebensborn so I picked it up thinking it was a traditional history book but it is more of a memoir with moments of historical references included as the author attempts to learn the truth of her past. It is still a little murky to me how the program started and some of this may stem from the lack of real documentation regarding the beginnin What is identity? How is it formed? And does identity shape the person-or is it the other way around? Noticed this book at the library and I had never heard of Lebensborn so I picked it up thinking it was a traditional history book but it is more of a memoir with moments of historical references included as the author attempts to learn the truth of her past. It is still a little murky to me how the program started and some of this may stem from the lack of real documentation regarding the beginning. Whether it was a way to help unwed mothers, as initially alluded to, or a "stud farm" for SS officers, over time it morphed in to a scheme to advance the Aryan race and eventually an avenue to kidnap children of those conquered in the Nazi rise. Plenty of reminders of just how abhorrent the Nazi regime was, especially those at the top. From an SS "baptism" Ruthild told me that she and other children underwent a quasi-religious naming ceremony in which they were dedicated to Hitler and the brotherhood of the SS. This Namensgebung ritual was a distorted version of the traditional Christian baptism, with an altar draped in a swastika flag and with a bust or a photo of the Fuhrer in pride of place. In front of a congregation made up of Lebensborn staff and black-uniformed SS officers, mothers like Ruthild’s promised that their children would be raised as good National Socialists; they then handed over their babies to an SS man who intoned a “blessing”. Then an SS dagger was held over the baby and the senior officer intoned a formal welcome to the brotherhood of the SS. We take you into our community as a limb of our body. You shall grow up in our protection and bring honour to your name, pride to your brotherhood and inextinguishable glory to your race. A portion of a speech made by Himmler in October 1943 I consider that in dealing with members of a foreign country, especially some Slav nationality, we must not start from German points of view and we must not endow these people with decent German thoughts and logical conclusions of which they are not capable, but we must take them as they really are. Obviously in such a mixture of peoples there will always be some racially good types. Therefore I think that it is our duty to take their children with us, to remove them from their environments, if necessary by robbing or stealing them. Either we win over any good blood that we can use for ourselves, and give it a place in our people, or we destroy this blood. When the Lebensborn program didn't work as planned i.e. more German babies, it began to morph in to a way for the Nazis to try and increase the population by kidnapping children in the areas they over ran. So using the above quote from Himmler, the Nazis embarked on a Eugenics type culling of children in the occupied areas to weed out the undesirables and keep those children who fit their ideal and place them in Lebensborn homes. All these moments are revealed as the author tries to unravel the mysteries of her past and struggles over the years to find others who, like her, were taken from their parents by the Nazis. 7/10

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    There are hidden depths to the depravity of the Nazis. Their belief that Aryan blood was the highest ideal of race caused them to systematically steal children from occupied areas to be raised by "Good Germans." They used their belief in blood and race to label some as "Untermenschen" or less than human so they could justify slavery and extermination. They used blood as an excuse for systematic rape. This personal journey in Lebensborn is painful but a story that needs to be told.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Jo Weir

    WOW! You have to read this book for yourself! It is eye-opening and powerful. A well told account of how many lives were impacted during Hitler’s reign and how the long the aftermath of it all has played out. An incredible book!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    The Lesenborn experiments were one of the less widely known events in the nazi era; young children were snatched from their families to be examined for the purposes of creating a master race. As Hitler eliminated those not worthy in concentration camps, his troops were assisting him in increasing the German aryan population through any means possible. This is just one account of thousands by a woman who was taken as a baby and placed with a foster family. The authors subsequent struggle to find h The Lesenborn experiments were one of the less widely known events in the nazi era; young children were snatched from their families to be examined for the purposes of creating a master race. As Hitler eliminated those not worthy in concentration camps, his troops were assisting him in increasing the German aryan population through any means possible. This is just one account of thousands by a woman who was taken as a baby and placed with a foster family. The authors subsequent struggle to find her real identity and surviving relatives is the story that follows. Some of the book details the history of the SS and its prime members, but much of the story is hers and how she has dealt with the legacy of her early years. I found it upsetting to read that she has always struggled with relationships and consequently has never married or had children herself. An interesting read for history buffs in particular.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Hitler’s Forgotten Children Anyone who has seen Les Mis knows the Jean Valjean song ‘Who Am I?’ and it is a question we all ask ourselves at some point in our own lives, but when you come from a Central Eastern European country it sometimes can take you down paths you did not know exist. Coming from a Polish family that suffered at the hands of Nazi and Soviet alike and brought up with the horrors of what both did to the people from the Polish Baltic down to Yugoslavia in the south, the Jew and Hitler’s Forgotten Children Anyone who has seen Les Mis knows the Jean Valjean song ‘Who Am I?’ and it is a question we all ask ourselves at some point in our own lives, but when you come from a Central Eastern European country it sometimes can take you down paths you did not know exist. Coming from a Polish family that suffered at the hands of Nazi and Soviet alike and brought up with the horrors of what both did to the people from the Polish Baltic down to Yugoslavia in the south, the Jew and Slav were victims, some more than others. Like most Eastern European families, those who have had to live in a country other than that of their forefathers since 1945 for various reasons, where were brought up on the rumours and knowledge of the Russians committed crimes at Katyn (which they still try and deny) and that the Nazis stole babies away from their mothers across Eastern Europe but never really understood why. Hitler’s Forgotten Children is Ingrid von Oelhafen version of that age old question of who am I? Even more so when she discovered that she was an unwitting part of the Lebensborn programme created by Himmler and that the Nazis had done everything they could to destroy her true identity. This is her journey in to finding who she really was as well as an examination of Lebensborn a much forgotten Nazi pogrom to create more ‘Aryan’ children that had been born to people who were ‘substandard’. To those who think they know much about what happened during the Second World War tend not to know much about Lebensborn, and this is part memoir, part history lesson. This is an important book that will guide you through what was and still is a hideous pogrom whose children are still coming to terms with it today. Lebensborn is the name of the pogrom that Himmler created for children that were born to Slavic women but were ‘blonde haired and blue eyed’ clearly a freak of nature and had to be taken from them and placed with good ‘Aryan’ families in Germany. Lebensborn shows the obsession that the Nazis had with blood lines and racial purity and this book covers all aspects of this terrible history. What we learn from this book is the Ingrid felt dislocated from her German family and how she was dumped in a children’s home after the escape from the Soviet zones in Germany after the war. Her and her ‘brother’ dumped there by her good German ‘mother’. It is only after the end of the cold war and the end of the divided Germany did the facts start to be revealed and that Ingrid found that she was a Lebensborn child. From there started a painful but important journey and how shocking it is when you see the bureaucracy and the state secrecy that stopped her discovering the truth about herself. Hitler’s Forgotten Children is part memoir part history lesson that many who think they know about the Nazis will be shocked at. One has to remember that these babies were stolen during the war and are in the 70s now and some are coming to terms and some just cannot come to terms with their status. They are still unwitting victims today and reading Ingrid von Oelhafen’s account you will find a well written well researched and knowledgeable account, written with compassion. This is a one of a number of dark periods of European history and this is still going on today as Europe has still come to terms with the effects of war and being divided. Think how hard it must be to know that most of your life has been a lie and the one you should have had was stolen from you in the aid of ‘racial purity’.

  10. 4 out of 5

    SARAH

    I've read more than my fair share of Holocaust literature but this is the first time I read about Himmler's top secret Lebensborn program which aimed to cultivate the next generation of Aryan children to reverse the trend of declining population of Germany. Young children were either adopted from unmarried pure blood Germans or kidnapped in the Nazi occupied territories if they passed "scientific" Aryan tests. This is a real account of Ingrid Von Oelhafen's search to find her origins after she w I've read more than my fair share of Holocaust literature but this is the first time I read about Himmler's top secret Lebensborn program which aimed to cultivate the next generation of Aryan children to reverse the trend of declining population of Germany. Young children were either adopted from unmarried pure blood Germans or kidnapped in the Nazi occupied territories if they passed "scientific" Aryan tests. This is a real account of Ingrid Von Oelhafen's search to find her origins after she was kidnapped by the Nazi's in Yugoslavia during the war and sent to live with foster parents in Germany. There were many fascinating aspects of this memoir including how difficult daily life was immediately following the war and how much shame Lebensborn continues to have on the German psyche.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Pilvi

    A good combination of history and personal facts. The facts of Ingrid's childhood were few, but it just needed a very good editor to make it into a good book. A very sad story, but it's important that this side of Nazis is also revealed to the big audience. What just wonders me is Ingrid's brother Dietmar. After he was taken into foster care, Ingrid stops talking about him and doesn't seem to want to know what happened to him. She thought him to be his real brother for years and then just forget A good combination of history and personal facts. The facts of Ingrid's childhood were few, but it just needed a very good editor to make it into a good book. A very sad story, but it's important that this side of Nazis is also revealed to the big audience. What just wonders me is Ingrid's brother Dietmar. After he was taken into foster care, Ingrid stops talking about him and doesn't seem to want to know what happened to him. She thought him to be his real brother for years and then just forgets him. Really? Why wasn't she at least interested in finding out if Dietmar was also a Lebenborn? But no, she wasn't and it makes me wonder what's behind this mystery.

  12. 5 out of 5

    AMY (Ah-mei) ♔♔Queen of fat cats, Professional ebook hoarder♔♔

    Because now I have time to read I need to inaugurate my non-fiction shelf. I rarely read nonfic, but this sounds gory and with it's a little luck it'll be like one of my favorite seinen series: Monster by Naoki Urusuwa. Wish me luck!!!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    Fascinating and harrowing, Hitler's Forgotten Children informed me about a portion of the Holocaust which I knew next to nothing about. A brave and heartfelt account, whose openness and honesty is at equal turns rather charming and heartbreaking.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tweedledum

    I consider myself pretty well read on the atrocities and barbarism of Nazi Germany but it seems there are depths to the warped and twisted mindset still waiting to be fully brought into the light. Ingrid von Oelhafen's harrowing journey to discover the truth about herself uncovered layer upon layer about the Lebensborn that is the stuff of nightmares. With so many of her birth family and foster family dead many questions remain unanswered but she, at least has finally found some peace of mind an I consider myself pretty well read on the atrocities and barbarism of Nazi Germany but it seems there are depths to the warped and twisted mindset still waiting to be fully brought into the light. Ingrid von Oelhafen's harrowing journey to discover the truth about herself uncovered layer upon layer about the Lebensborn that is the stuff of nightmares. With so many of her birth family and foster family dead many questions remain unanswered but she, at least has finally found some peace of mind and certainty.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    "The lesson of history is that no one learns the lesson of history. It is time we begin." Never knew about the Lebensborn Program. Saw this at my local library and decided to read it. Glad I did. Can you imagine growing up thinking you know who you are, only to find out you're someone else? In 1942, the parents in Yugoslavia were required to submit their children to medical checks for assessment of racial purity. One woman goes on a journey to discover who she is and along the way discovers herse "The lesson of history is that no one learns the lesson of history. It is time we begin." Never knew about the Lebensborn Program. Saw this at my local library and decided to read it. Glad I did. Can you imagine growing up thinking you know who you are, only to find out you're someone else? In 1942, the parents in Yugoslavia were required to submit their children to medical checks for assessment of racial purity. One woman goes on a journey to discover who she is and along the way discovers herself. A true story of the Lebensborn Program.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

    Not as engaging as I had hoped. Still interesting, but lacked proper depth

  17. 4 out of 5

    Frederico

    This book is not, of course, literary fiction, and it's not exactly history, or even a memoir. It's best described as a contextualized deposition. I give it five stars because it's an unforgettable deposition. Read from the current political context, I came to realize how our contemporary times (Brexit, Trump) are merely farsical. The horrors of Nazism are truly dystopic, even in the footnote that is the Lebensborn program described here. The abyss of perversion that was Nazism should be remembe This book is not, of course, literary fiction, and it's not exactly history, or even a memoir. It's best described as a contextualized deposition. I give it five stars because it's an unforgettable deposition. Read from the current political context, I came to realize how our contemporary times (Brexit, Trump) are merely farsical. The horrors of Nazism are truly dystopic, even in the footnote that is the Lebensborn program described here. The abyss of perversion that was Nazism should be remembered every so often, and specially now as Europeans (Brits, Italians, Germans, Frenchmen, Swedes, Swiss, Hungarians, Poles) turn to nationalism as a political expedient. Shame on you, Europe. You've already forgotten.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Too often one reads of the crimes of the Nazis (and others) in the abstract. This book tells the story of the German Lebensborn ('life spring') organization which was devoted to the upbringing of good Aryan children. Some were the children of unwed mothers, willing participants. Others were racially acceptable children stolen from their families. This is the story of one of the latter and of her seventy-year quest to learn her true origins. Simply told, it is profoundly moving.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa of Hopewell

    Very important record of this horrible program. Essential knowledge for scholars of the Nazis. Full review here: https://hopewellslibraryoflife.wordpr... Very important record of this horrible program. Essential knowledge for scholars of the Nazis. Full review here: https://hopewellslibraryoflife.wordpr...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    So eine Schande! Another abomination from one of the most oppressive regimes of all time. It was not enough for the Nazis to exterminate 6 million Jews in concentration camps, as well as others, but they have to alter the lives and history of the conquered states and peoples. Without a past and no future a soul is lost. One person's experiences in trying to uncover her hidden past. An insight into Himmler's Lebensborn program and the "Germanization" of kidnapped foreign children. Review if you w So eine Schande! Another abomination from one of the most oppressive regimes of all time. It was not enough for the Nazis to exterminate 6 million Jews in concentration camps, as well as others, but they have to alter the lives and history of the conquered states and peoples. Without a past and no future a soul is lost. One person's experiences in trying to uncover her hidden past. An insight into Himmler's Lebensborn program and the "Germanization" of kidnapped foreign children. Review if you will how Native American children had the same done to them by ourselves.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angelique Simonsen

    Jeepers! I had no idea and this is another example of how something can go so wrong.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Horia Bura

    A quite very interesting story about a woman's search for her identity. Literally.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lorre

    This was a very interesting book about the Lebensborn project, a project I knew very little of. Ingrid's story is very well written and the included letters and other info was very informative.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah May

    This book was phenomenal. I know of Hitler's dreams of a master race the same as everybody else does. He wanted a superior Aryan (also known as Nordic) race, a world eradicated of anyone who wasn't blue-eyed with blonde hair. Anyone who didn't conform to the Nazi party was suddenly in danger, as were those we weren't German, and especially the Jews. I picked this up super cheap on Kindle a while ago, having vaguely recognised the word 'Lebensborn' though from Lord knows where, and thought it'd be This book was phenomenal. I know of Hitler's dreams of a master race the same as everybody else does. He wanted a superior Aryan (also known as Nordic) race, a world eradicated of anyone who wasn't blue-eyed with blonde hair. Anyone who didn't conform to the Nazi party was suddenly in danger, as were those we weren't German, and especially the Jews. I picked this up super cheap on Kindle a while ago, having vaguely recognised the word 'Lebensborn' though from Lord knows where, and thought it'd be an interesting read. Now, I've read autobiographies and memoirs of people from so many different parts of the war: soldiers from numerous countries, Holocaust survivors, the English people whose houses were reduced to rubble in the street, German citizens dreading the arrival of the Russian soldiers in 1945. What I've never read about is Lebensborn. I was very vaguely aware of experiments on children deemed to be part of the master race. It's not something we're taught in school or see in the vast majority of documentaries about WWII. It was something that was always whispered between pupils in class or the playground when the War was mentioned in History lessons. I couldn't have even imagined the size of the story behind those experiments that kids used to whisper about. This is part memoir, part history book. Ingrid Matko-von-Oelhafen weaves her story with the history behind what she was a part of. To learn her past she delved not only into how Lebensborn worked but also its creation, Heinrich Himmler's obsession with a pure, strong, master race, and the SS. I learned so many new things. I had no idea of the SS's history or of the extent of Himmler's obsession with purity from its start. He had such a bizarre mind and considering some of the ideas he was so consumed by it's honestly a wonder he rose so high in Hitler's ranks without his sanity being questioned. And then there was Lebensborn itself, 'perfect' German children born out of wedlock in the Lebensborn centres where both child and mother were treated with care and discretion, but the floor below is filled with children stolen from families in countries the Nazis have conquered. Ingrid's story is both terrible and inspirational, and I couldn't put it down at all. It's also beautifully written. At no point is this book boring, even the chapters of history were compelling and just begged to be read. I don't know who did it, I know Ingrid Matko-von-Oelhafen wrote at least the base, and Tim Tate also helped with the writing, and then they obviously had an editor as well. They're clearly the dream team because this book flowed wonderfully and I devoured it. Hitler's Forgotten Children is one of the best memoirs I've ever read. I 100% recommend this to everyone.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Hitler's Forgotten Children is the heartbreaking story of Ingrid von Oelhafen's decades-long journey to uncover her true identity. Ingrid grew up in Germany with German parents, but she was only a young girl when she learned that she might be Erika Matko, who was born in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia in 1942, stolen from her parents, brought to Germany, and placed with "politically vetted foster parents." In a first person narrative, von Oelhafen explains in great detail her earliest memories, her col Hitler's Forgotten Children is the heartbreaking story of Ingrid von Oelhafen's decades-long journey to uncover her true identity. Ingrid grew up in Germany with German parents, but she was only a young girl when she learned that she might be Erika Matko, who was born in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia in 1942, stolen from her parents, brought to Germany, and placed with "politically vetted foster parents." In a first person narrative, von Oelhafen explains in great detail her earliest memories, her cold treatment by her foster parents, how she first learned about Erika Matko and the Lebensborn program, her research into Lebensborn, and all the steps she took over the years to find out the truth. Von Oelhafen's story is hard to read at times, from the way her foster parents treated her to the part of her life that was taken away and irrevocably changed by the Nazis. I vacillated between sadness and anger, and there were several times I had to put the book down for a day or two. It's hard to wrap your mind around the evil of the Nazi regime and how one can live nearly their whole life without knowing who they truly are. Hitler's Forgotten Children provides much food for thought, particularly about identity, what makes you who you are, and how to build a life for yourself when you don't know where you came from or who you belong to. Von Oelhafen was forced to consider what she knew, what she didn't know, and what she will never know, and the book explains how this affected her opportunities and her decisions over the course of her life. Fortunately, there are moments of hope and light in her story as well, but it definitely is one that will pull at your heart. Unfortunately, Hitler's Forgotten Children is a relevant read these days with the migrant children in detention who are separated from their families and may never be reunited with them. It will definitely make you think long and hard about the impact on those children, especially knowing that some of them could very well find themselves in von Oelhafen's shoes in the coming years, questioning their origin and identity. If you are fascinated with stories about World War II and want to think deeper about its impact, Hitler's Forgotten Children should be on your list. Review originally posted on Diary of an Eccentric

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary Ellis

    Opposite Hitler's Final Solution was Lebensborn. This book is one woman's story as she tries to find out who she really is and to trace her roots as she discovers she was fostered by her German parents, with whom she never had a close loving relationship. Eventually she learns that she was stolen from her birth parents in a conquered country, deemed racially pure, and placed into the secret Lebensborn program. The author, fifty years after the war, tells her very personal story and the story of Opposite Hitler's Final Solution was Lebensborn. This book is one woman's story as she tries to find out who she really is and to trace her roots as she discovers she was fostered by her German parents, with whom she never had a close loving relationship. Eventually she learns that she was stolen from her birth parents in a conquered country, deemed racially pure, and placed into the secret Lebensborn program. The author, fifty years after the war, tells her very personal story and the story of the lesser known program without bitterness, but with a degree of acceptance and a desire that we learn from history.

  27. 4 out of 5

    A Busscher

    DNF- I tried to read it but 3/4 of the way through, I struggled 1) the writing was hard to follow, it didn't flow smoothly, just like that author is speaking is how she wrote the book. 2) it feels drawn out. I don't really care how she felt every moment of the search, I get that she's anxious but to know that constantly and to repeat it every time she gets new info... I think it's implied after the 2 times that its mentioned. However, I did find this book interesting in the fact that is gave det DNF- I tried to read it but 3/4 of the way through, I struggled 1) the writing was hard to follow, it didn't flow smoothly, just like that author is speaking is how she wrote the book. 2) it feels drawn out. I don't really care how she felt every moment of the search, I get that she's anxious but to know that constantly and to repeat it every time she gets new info... I think it's implied after the 2 times that its mentioned. However, I did find this book interesting in the fact that is gave details of the SS and himmler that I never knew before. I also have never heard of the lebensborn program before.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tan

    This was an interesting and fairly in-depth look at Heinrich Himmler's Lebensborn program from the point of view of a woman who was part of it. In an attempt to increase the German birth rate, this two-part plan placed both babies born out of wedlock and children kidnaped from conquered areas in Nazi homes to be fostered. I listened to the audiobook. Davina Porter did a pretty good job on the German pronunciations.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kc

    Interesting subject made sterile. It's written without depth. The author sounds more like a disinterested witness. Her insistance that the Lebensborn program was a home for unwed mothers, regardless of documentation that says otherwise, sounds revisionist.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This was a story of Nazi Germany that I had not heard before. The story of children stolen from their parents in countries invaded and controlled by the Nazis. The children were placed with German foster families to be Germanized.

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