When Everybody But You Is Bad

Hitler’s Forgotten Children: A True Story of the Lebensborn Program and One Woman’s Search for Her Real Identity

By Ingrid von Oelhafen and Tim Tate

It feels like a long way from WWII and the Nazi idea of a master race of pure Aryans but, in addition to telling her story of abduction and search for her true identity, Ingrid von Oelhafen reminds us that the idea of racial superiority remains with us and currently is getting a new airing in Europe and the U.S.

Those not familiar with the Nazi Lebensborn eugenics program entailing both controlled procreation and Germanization of abducted children (of whom Oelhafen was one) will find this book informative. For those already familiar with the Schutzstaffel (SS) run program, Oelhafen adds the dimension of understanding the lifelong pain inflicted on the innocent children of what should have been apparent as the logical extension of Hitler’s and the Nazi’s obsession with racial cleansing and blood purity. It’s a real life tale of horror that, unbelievably and unfortunately, some still regard as a worthy endeavor (though under different guises, among them nationalism).

Oelhafen intertwines her personal history and quest to discover her true identity with the formation and administration of Lebensborn. Regarding the former, you’ll be quite startled and probably angered by just how difficult it proved for her to learn about her origins. From her standoffish treatment by her foster mother, who revealed nothing to her, to the dense and uncooperative authorities she had to deal with, to the reception of her birth family when she finally met them, you can feel the frustration and pain she suffered each step of the way. It’s this very kind of insight that will help you appreciate just how pernicious was Nazi eugenics, Lebsenborn, and Germanization of children from occupied countries. As for the latter, she does a very good job of explaining the various aspects of Lebensborn, effectively using Himmler’s own bureaucratic orders and pronouncements.

Oelhafen’s personal pain, her determination, and her intelligent rendering of a darkness in her life, as well as that of the world’s history, coupled with the very current and relevant lessons for a tumultuous world consumed more each day by xenophobia, make this an important book for all. w/c

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