Skip to Content

Staff Picks Category: Germany

Cradles of the Reich by Jennifer Coburn []



Based on historical events in Nazi Germany, this novel follows the lives of three women who intersect at Heim Hochland as part of the Lebensborn breeding program intended to help racially fit women produce Aryan babies for Hitler. Gundi is a university student involved in the resistance who finds herself pregnant by her activist Jewish boyfriend. Hilde is eighteen, underappreciated at home, devoted to Hitler’s regime, and eager to raise her status by having a Nazi official’s baby. Irma is a nurse who lost her fiancé and unborn child during the Great War, discovered her beau concealing a woman in his cellar, and needs the fresh start that working at Heim Hochland offers. Surrounded by looted art and antiques, sustained by the best food available, and subject to the whims of powerful men, these women find connections among the expectant mothers, “apprentice” mothers, and employees of the facility. When Gundi’s child is born with obviously non-Aryan characteristics, she learns of the potential consequences (euthanasia) and must seek help where she can. Parallels may be drawn between Nazi eugenics then and reproductive agency now, and the fundamental sexism of men making decisions about women’s bodies, providing ample topics for discussion groups.

For fans of The Lilac Girls, The Island of Sea Women, Call the Midwife, and World War II women’s stories.

Tagged: , , , , ,

The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch []



Whenever I go to New York City I make a pilgrimage to the Strand bookstore.18 miles of books, how could I not?! During my last visit I became overwhelmed, and after 45 minutes of wandering, snatched The Hangman’s Daughter from the “books everyone loves table.” To my surprise, the book was a lot of fun.

Originally written in German, this mystery novel set in 17th century Bavaria has both an interesting plot and a plethora of historical detail. When the body of a local child turns up in a river with suspicious markings, the townspeople assume dark magic is afoot. Despite the lack of tangible evidence, the town midwife is accused of witchcraft. Jakob Kuisl is an unlikely detective (oh, and the town hangman) who stands out as the voice of reason in a world that is ready to accept witch hunts and gruesome medieval medical practices. Can the hangman prove that the midwife is innocent before it’s too late?! You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Those critical of language and authenticity may find the translation too modern but I found it approachable. An engaging whodunit!

Tagged: , , ,