A moving memoir, if an earnest footnote to the history of the Third Reich.

HITLER'S FORGOTTEN CHILDREN

A TRUE STORY OF THE LEBENSBORN PROGRAM AND ONE WOMAN'S SEARCH FOR HER REAL IDENTITY

A history of the Nazi eugenics program, which involved hundreds of thousands of children, including the author herself.

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: born Erika Matko, she was removed from her home, like countless other children possessing the desired phenotypical characteristics, and placed with a German family to be raised as a citizen of the Third Reich, her previous identity essentially erased. In her case, Erika came to live in the home of a senior military officer decades younger than his wife. Separated with the partition of Germany by the victorious Allied powers, young Erika, now Ingrid, approached adulthood without any knowledge of a past that she had suddenly to confront when trying to secure a birth certificate in order to enroll in college. “I was only seventeen and not as aware of history as I have since become,” she writes, adding that whatever story her adoptive mother concocted for the university officials “was not, I think, wholly truthful.” On learning of her identity before her kidnapping into the Lebensborn program, she at first bridled, insisting on using her German name, then deprived of it “since I wasn’t part of the family by blood.” That reversal of fortunes leads her, as her story progresses, into a complex quest to find her true kin, helped along by others caught in the eugenics program and steadily broadening her scope while seeking “to know how this double identity has occurred.” While it is sometimes repetitive and overwrought, her narrative will be of interest not just to students of the Nazi regime, but also to adoptees seeking their own birth parents.

A moving memoir, if an earnest footnote to the history of the Third Reich.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-425-28332-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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