Q&A With Jennifer Coburn
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Q & A with Jennifer Coburn
Hello everyone! I am doing my very first Q & A with author Jennifer Coburn. Jennifer has a historical fiction novel coming out on October 11th titled, “Cradles of the Reich,” which I can’t wait to read about. It talks about a lesser known topic of World War II. Women in Germany would have children with SS Officers to populate Hitlers “master race” and once these babies are born they are never seen again.
Q: So Jennifer I went to your site and read The Story Behind the Novel and how the idea came to you from “The Man in the High Castle” (from what I watched I agree it is a scary show about what would have happened if we lost the war) I can tell you also put in a lot of research into the novel. What made you want to write this story now?
A: When I learned about the top-secret Nazi Lebensborn breeding program, I had so many questions: Why would a young woman volunteer to have sex with a stranger and give her child to the Reich as an act of patriotism? How were the women selected? Did their parents know what they were doing? Was the program successful? And finally, why had I never heard about the Lebensborn Society before?
I love learning about history through historical fiction, especially ones that focus on the relationships among women, so I hoped to find a novel that answered my questions about the Lebensborn Society. I couldn’t find one, so I started reading nonfiction books for answers and what I found fascinated me. Not only did the program arrange sexual liaisons between “racially valuable” young women and SS officers, but it was also a kidnapping network that stole 200,000 Aryan-looking infants and toddlers from countries Germany invaded.
I wrote the book I wanted to read and hoped others would also be interested in learning about the program in the context of a story of three women who lived at the first Lebensborn home in Bavaria in 1939.
Q: Have you always been interested in writing historical fiction?
A: No, I never thought it was something I was qualified to do. I had written six chick-lit novels and a mother-daughter travel memoir, so writing about Nazis wasn’t the next natural career step for me. I have several friends who write historical fiction and they encouraged me to go for it. I am deeply indebted to Susan Meissner, Michelle Gable, and Jill Hall for helping me believe that writing historical fiction was actually something I could do.
Additionally, I have the opportunity to volunteer with low-income teens who are working to become the first in their families to attend college. Watching them venture off into the unknown with courage and grace inspired me to follow their lead and try something that felt hard and out-of-reach. I had major imposter syndrome, which wasn’t an altogether bad thing. It made me consult with the right people and listen to feedback.
Q: What lessons do you hope readers will learn from reading this novel?
A: I walked away with a deeper understanding of how a civilized, cultured nation like Germany could be seduced by a madman in such a relatively short amount of time. After Hitler’s failed insurrection in 1923, most Germans considered him a buffoon, a joke. Ten years later, he was the Chancellor, and within ten years of that, a mass genocide had begun.
When I was a child, I thought Germans were just bad people for letting the Holocaust happen. (And no, the irony of my prejudice is not lost on me.) Now, I realize that a Hitler-type leader can assume power anywhere. And slowly, insidiously sow seeds of hatred for another group.
On a lighter note, in writing the stories of three women in the Lebensborn program, I often found myself troubled by the choices women face, and yet inspired by how the connections we forge can carry us through the most harrowing of times.
Q: Are you writing anymore historical fiction novels now?
A: Yes. In writing Cradles of the Reich, I was blown away by just how deep the Nazi propaganda was ingrained in the culture. Not only were there antisemitic films, school lessons, and children’s books, there were family board games! The push for “child-rich” families was so hard that mothers were awarded Iron Cross Medals for producing four or more children. When I learned about a propaganda film made at the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia, I was intrigued. The transit station to Auschwitz was “beautified” for a Red Cross inspection that was so successful, the Nazis decided to make a film about Hitler’s “gift to the Jews.”
I am working on it right now and am absolutely horrified and riveted. My mail carrier approached my house yesterday and, when he saw my facial expression through the window, he shouted in, “Are you OK?”
What I really want to explore is the complex ways that women respond to horrific circumstances. Some are their choices are morally reprehensible while others are downright heroic.
Thank you for taking an interest in my novels. I welcome your readers to contact me on social media, leave comments on Goodreads, or invite me to Zoom into their book club to discuss my book further.
For more information about “Cradles of the Reich,” click on this link where it will take you to the page The Story Behind the Novel https://jennifercoburn.com/behind-the-novel .