Lebensborn was the Nazi programme of either having German women of the right Aryan type bear babies by officers, or taking children from their homes in occupied territories if they fit the required description. This was in order to give children to Nazi couples unable to have their own children. Inge, the only child of a German army officer and his wife lives a happy existence in Munich in 1956. There are still reminders of the war around them, in the form of damaged buildings, and there is a portrait of Hitler in her father’s study. Inge has a secret boyfriend, Wilf, who is a Jew, and therefore cannot be introduced to her parents. A Polish woman comes one day to the house and sets in train a series of events that will shake Inge to the core, and shatter her family’s life. The woman is her mother who has come from Poland to find her after she was taken, aged four, to be part of the Lebensborm programme.
This is a heart-rending story and one wonders whether this is based on Vanessa Curtis’ own family history as the book is dedicated in part to the memory of her great-grandfather who was born in the Polish village from which Inge was taken. The reader follows the series of discoveries about her past and that of her parents with growing horror until the final horrifying climax of the story. Inge’s growing realisation that all she had taken from granted was based on a pack of lies and that things had been hidden from her, is beautifully unravelled, step by painful step, the saving grace being the comfort she finds with her boyfriend and his father.
There were a couple of things that perhaps stretched the credibility a little; would a Jewish father and son really have settled back in Munich after the death of Wilf’s mother in the concentration camp at Dachau not too far away? The terrible confrontation at the end somehow seemed a little too far, if horrifying, but these are small criticisms of what is a very good novel, showing a light on a perhaps not well known part of the Nazi story. This reviewer could not put this down and I am sure that particularly girls 14+ will find the same compulsion to sit and finish it in one sitting, travelling with Inge on her terrible journey of discovery.