Author coming to Medina highlights little-known Nazi breeding program
About 20,000 babies produced through the Lebensborn project
MEDINA – An accomplished San Diego author will visit the Author’s Note independent book store at 6:30 p.m. on Monday to promote her newest book.
Jennifer Coburn will discuss and sign copies of “Cradles of the Reich,” which follows three very different women living at a Nazi Lebensborn breeding home at the start of World War II.
Coburn was born in New York City, where she grew up in the 70s and 80s, she said in a recent phone call. After college, she moved to California to experience life in a different part of the country.
“I was drawn by the year-long summers,” she said. “That was more than 35 years ago, and I haven’t looked back.”
Coburn said she had originally wanted to be a lyricist, but her father died young and penniless and she was determined to do something with a proven track record.
She worked for a non-profit and did a lot of writing. She had written newspaper articles about being a new mother and critics at an awards dinner for the President’s Club said she reminded them of Erma Bombeck. That’s when she considered writing a book.
Tales from the Crib was a romantic comedy about a woman who finds out she’s pregnant just as her husband asked her for a divorce.
She has written six comedies, and admits writing about Nazis was not the next natural career step for her.
“But when I heard about Heinrich Himmler and his plan to create two million racially valuable babies, I had to write about it,” Coburn said.
Author’s Note owner Julie Berry calls Cradles of the Reich a cautionary tale for modern times told in stunning detail. It uncovers a topic rarely explored in fiction – the Lebensborn project – a little-known Nazi atrocity to create a so-called master race.
It paired Aryan women (chosen women had to prove three generations of Aryan blood and be in good physical and mental health) with SS officers for sexual liaisons. The resulting children would become the property of the Third Reich.
Coburn explained the Nazis had racial screening tools to measure 21 different criteria, such as skin and hair color, eyes and size of heads. Only 40 percent who applied were accepted. It is estimated 20,000 babies were produced under this program.
When World War II began, the Nazis had a kidnapping program as well, Coburn said. She said in her research she discovered 200,000 babies were kidnapped from neighboring countries which Germany had invaded, including Poland, Czechoslovakia and Norway.
Coburn spent three years researching and writing the book, and said she has had overwhelming feedback on it.
Lilac Girls author Martha Hall Kelly said she loved the novel, praising it as “fascinating and incredibly well researched.” Best-seller Kate Quinn called it “unforgettable.” The Associated Press wrote that it was “compelling, well researched and just flat-out good.”
Coburn said she received a note from the child of a Holocaust survivor, saying it was hard to read, but so important to show the early signs of Fascism.
Coburn, who lives in San Diego with her husband William, has published a mother-daughter travel memoir, We’ll Always Have Paris,” as well as six contemporary women’s novels. Additionally, she has contributed to five literary anthologies, including A Paris All Your own.
She also volunteers with So Say We All, a live storytelling organization, where she is a performer, producer and performance coach. She is an active volunteer with Reality Changers, a non-profit that supports low-income high school students in becoming the first in their families to attend college.
The event at Author’s Note is free and open to the public. Given the anticipated turnout, Berry recommends pre-ordering copies. For those unable to attend, signed books can be ordered at authorsnote.com. For more information, contact Author’s Note at (585) 798-3642.
While in Western New York, Coburn plans to visit Niagara Falls and on Tuesday evening (March 21) she will introduce her new book at the Woodward Memorial Library in Le Roy. Those wishing to attend there are asked to register by calling (585) 768-8300 or through the library website.