Ingrid von Oelhafen, Tim Tate
Hitler’s Stolen Children is a powerful, first-person account of being at the heart of one of the Nazi’s cruelest and most obscene experiments—the Lebensborn program to create a new Aryan master race. In 1942, when she was nine months old, Erika Matko was stolen from her family in St. Sauerbrunn in what was then Yugoslavia and transported to Germany to be “Germanized.” She was chosen because, unlike her older brother and sister, she was blond and blue eyed, and had passed a medical racial examination that classed her as Aryan. Lebensborn then farmed her out to politically vetted German foster parents. Renamed Ingrid von Oelhafen, she grew up believing she was German. Then, one day, friends of her foster family revealed the truth about her origins. This was the beginning of a life-long quest to discover the truth about her birth and the Lebensborn program. It was a journey that would take her across Germany, uncovering the terrible secrets of Lebensborn—including the kidnapping of up to half a million babies like her and the deliberate murder of those deemed “sub-standard”—and back to the village where she was born. But here she would be faced with something even more painful: a woman who for more than seventy years had been using her name—and living her life.
Hitler’s Stolen Children has reached the bestseller lists but whether it deserves the acclaim is arguable.
The book is a well-written memoir of Oelhafen’s search for her biological parents, a quest deserving of sympathy and empathy. It is a sad, if not tragic story. Years of searching, thousands of documents, mountains of historical records. The primary author deserves all the accolades and acclaim she has received for her perseverance, dedication and commitment to her goal. Oelhafen deserves all the praise that can be showered on her for this monumental effort of human determination.
However, as a book, the praise the author deserves needs to be checked somewhat. There number of organizations, institutions, and associations she had to deal with is horrendous. The numerous Nazi groups, military departments and military sections is staggering. Finally, the number of references to various German surnames and Slovenian named people makes the book confusing and chaotic.
Perhaps the puzzling pieces of the book as stated above are unavoidable in the recollection of the biological quest but it makes reading very challenging. The book deserves all the praise given it for the tale it unfolds. The readability of the tale is questionable.
The book should be read by people who appreciate history, particularly history written about Nazi Germany. The depth of the depravity of the German high command has no limits. A good historical read about another facet of Nazi perversion and cruelty. An engaging and entertaining read, not so much.