My Enemy's Cradle

My Enemy's Cradle

by Sara Young

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156034333
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/06/2008
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 505,504
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Under the name Sara Pennypacker, SARA YOUNG has written seven books for children, including the acclaimed Stuart series (Stuart’s Cape) and Clementine. She lives on Cape Cod.

Read an Excerpt

ONE

SEPTEMBER 1941

“Not here, too! Nee!

From the doorway, I saw soup splash from my aunt’s ladle onto the tablecloth. These days, there was no fat in the broth to set a stain; still, my heart dropped when she made no move to blot the spill. Since the Germans had come, she had retreated further into herself, fading away in front of me so that sometimes it was like losing my mother all over again.

“Of course here, Mies,” my uncle scoffed. His pale face pinked with the easy flush of red-haired men, and he leaned back and took off his glasses to polish them on his napkin. “Did you think the Germans would annex us as a refuge for Jews? The question is only why it took so long.”

I brought the bread to the table and took my seat. “What’s happened?”

“They posted a set of restrictions for Jews today,” my uncle said. “They’ll scarcely be able to leave their homes.” He inspected his glasses, put them back on. And then he turned to look at me directly.

I froze, my fingertips whitening around my spoon, suddenly reminded of something I’d witnessed in childhood.

Walking home from school, a group of us had come upon a man beating his dog. All of us shouted at him to stop—our numbers made us brave—and some of the bigger boys even tried to pull him off the poor animal. A boy beside me caught my attention; this boy, I knew, was himself often beaten by the older boys. He was crying, “Stop! Stop it!” along with the rest of us. But something in his expression chilled me: satisfaction. When my uncle turned to look at me, I saw that boy’s face again.

“Things will be different now, Cyrla.”

I dropped my gaze to my plate, but I felt my heart begin to pound. Was he weighing the risk of having me in his home?

His home. I stared down at the white tablecloth. Beneath it, a table rug was edged with gold silk fringe. When I had first arrived it had seemed strange to cover a table this way, but now I knew every color and pattern of its design. I lifted my eyes to take in the room I had come to love: the tall windows painted crisp white overlooking our small courtyard; the three watercolors of the Rijksmuseum hanging in a column on their braided cord; the glimpse into the parlor beyond the burgundy velvet drapes, where the piano stood in the corner, necklaced with framed photographs of our family. My heart began to beat even faster—where did I belong if not here?

I glanced at my cousin—Anneke was my safe passage through the treacherous landscape of my uncle’s world. But she had been distracted all day, drifting away whenever I’d tried to talk to her, as if she was harboring a secret. She hadn’t even heard her father’s threat.

“What?” I kept my voice calm. “What will be different here?”

He was cutting the bread. He didn’t stop, but I saw the warning look he gave my aunt. “Everything.” He cut three slices from the loaf and then laid the knife down carefully. “Everything will be different.”

I drew the loaf toward me, picked up the knife as deliberately as a chess piece, and cut a fourth slice. I laid the knife back on the board, then placed my hands on my lap so he wouldn’t see them trembling. I lifted my chin and leveled my eyes at him. “You counted wrong, Uncle,” I said. He looked away, but his face was dark as a bruise.

At last the meal was over. My uncle returned to his shop to take care of his bookkeeping, and my aunt and Anneke and I cleared the table and went into the kitchen to wash the dishes. We worked in silence; I in my fear, my aunt in her sadness, Anneke deep in her secret.

Suddenly Anneke cried out. The bread knife clattered to the floor and she held up her hand; blood streamed into the basin of suds, tingeing the bubbles pink. I grabbed a dishcloth and pressed it around Anneke’s hand, then led her to the window seat. She sank down and stared at the blood seeping through the dishcloth as though it was a curiosity. I grew afraid, then. Anneke was vain about her hands, would go without her ration of milk sometimes to soak them in it instead, and she could still find nail polish when it seemed no one in Holland had such a luxury. If she didn’t carry on about a cut deep enough to scar, then her secret was very big.

My aunt knelt to examine the wound, chiding her for her carelessness. Anneke closed her eyes and tipped her head back; with her free hand she stroked the hollow at the base of her throat with a contented smile. It was the look she wore when she crept back into our room in the middle of the night . . . flushed and deepened, rearranged.

I did not like Karl.

And then I knew.

“What have you done?” I whispered to her when my aunt left to fetch the disinfectant and muslin.

“Later,” she whispered back. “When everyone is asleep.”

There was ironing and darning to do, and that night it seemed to take forever. We listened to Hugo Wolf ’s music on the phonograph while we did these chores, and I wished for silence again because for the first time I could hear how the tragedy of Wolf ’s life flowed through his music. The beauty itself was doomed. When my aunt said good night, Anneke and I exchanged looks and went upstairs as well.

We washed quickly and put on our nightclothes. I couldn’t wait another moment. “Tell me now.”

My cousin turned to me, and I’d never seen her smile so beautifully.

“A wonderful thing, Cyrla,” she said, reaching down to stroke her belly.

The cut on her finger had begun to bleed again; the bandage was soaked through. As she stood in front of me smiling and caressing her belly, a smear of blood bloomed across the pale blue cotton of her nightgown.

TWO

“I’m leaving. I’m leaving here!” Now Anneke could hardly stop talking. “We’ll get married here, at the town hall I suppose. Karl’s family lives outside Hamburg—maybe we’ll get a place there when the war is over, with a garden for children, near a park, maybe. . . .Hamburg, Cyrla!”

“Shhhhhh!” I quieted her. “She’ll hear.” It wasn’t my aunt we were careful of, but Mrs. Bakker in the next house, which shared a wall with ours. She was old and had nothing better to do with her days than spy on people and gossip about what she’d learned. She sat in her front parlor all morning long and watched the goings-on of Tielman Oemstraat through the two mirrors attached to her windows. We knew from her coughing that her bedroom was next to ours, and we didn’t think it would be beneath her to hold a glass to the wall. But I didn’t really care about Mrs. Bakker at all. I wanted to stop Anneke’s words.

I unwrapped her finger and cleaned it with water from the wash pitcher. “Change your nightgown. I’ll go downstairs for more bandages.” Out in the hall, I made myself breathe calmly again. I gathered the muslin strips, and also a cup of milk and a plate of spekulaas—Anneke had hardly eaten at supper, but she loved the little spice cookies she smuggled home from the bakery. If I distracted her, I wouldn’t have to hear her plans. And if she saw how much she needed me, she might understand that it was a mistake to leave. It was always a mistake to leave.

We sat on her bed and I dressed her finger; I couldn’t look into her face although I felt her studying mine. “Are you sure? And how did this even . . . weren’t you careful . . . ?”

Anneke looked away. “These things happen.” Then she broke into her brilliant smile, the one that always disarmed me. “A baby . . . think of it!”

I wrapped my arms around her and laid my head on her chest, breathing in the scent she brought home to us from the bakery each day—baked sugar, sweet and warm, so perfectly suited to her. What scent clung to me, I wondered. Vinegar from the pickling I’d been doing all week? Lye from the upholstery shop?

Anneke stroked the tears from my cheeks. “I’m sorry, Cyrla,” she said. “I’ll miss you so much. More than anyone else.”

That was my cousin’s way. Sometimes she was careless with my feelings—not in cruelty, but in the innocent way that beautiful girls sometimes have, as if being thoughtful were a skill they had never needed to learn. But when she did think of me, her sweetness, completely unmeasured, would fill me with shame.

“But I’m so happy!” she cried, as if her face weren’t already telling me this. “And he’s so handsome!” She fell back onto the bed, clutching her heart. “He looks just like Rhett Butler, don’t you think?”

I sighed in mock exasperation. “He looks nothing like Rhett Butler, for heaven’s sakes. For one thing, he’s blond.”

Anneke waved this detail away with her bandaged hand.

“And he has blue eyes. And no mustache.” I rose and brought the glass of milk from the dresser over to her night table. “All right. He’s handsome. But frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Anneke laughed and sat up. “You’ll be an aunt! And the war will be over soon, and then you can visit.”


Copyright © 2008 by Sara Young

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887–6777.

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My Enemy's Cradle 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the 1st page, I enjoyed every minute reading this book! The story flowed well and the way she writes made every page engaging and interesting. I had never heard of these maternity homes during WWII so I found it very interesting. I was sorry when I finished the book! I look forward to more books from Sara Young! Write, Sara, write!
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Searing. Shocking. Unthinkable. Yes, all of these words apply to this story of the Nazi Lebensborn program. It is a wrenching true tale that has been seldom told. As related in a first-person narrative by Cyrla, a young half Jewish woman, it is heartbreaking. Her experience is unforgettable as author Young traces a story of innocents betrayed, neighbors who become enemies, and enemies who become friends. The Lebensborn was a maternity home for girls carrying the babies of German soldiers. In actuality, it was a series of homes scattered through Germany and other countries. There the girls went after passing stringent tests to make sure their bloodlines were pure. They also had to authenticate the father's identity and he, too, had to exhibit similar acceptable criteria. This was Hitler's way of perpetuating the Aryan race, and it was overseen by Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. Once in a home the girls were well fed and cared for, brain washed if possible, and forced to swear loyalty to Hitler. An excellent way to prove such loyalty was to have another child as soon possible. What most of the girls did not realize was that their babies would be taken from them to be adopted by SS families. Of course, if the baby was born with even the slightest defect it simply disappeared. Cyrla was born in Poland. The child of a Jewish father and a Dutch mother. She lived with her father, his second wife, and two half-brothers. As the world darkened in Poland prior to World War II, her father thought it best to send her to Holland to live with her late mother's aunt. She had her mother's blond hair, and would be safe. Upon arriving in Holland she was not allowed to observe the Jewish holy days but kept track of them in her head. She and her cousin, Anneke, became as sisters, often mistaken for one another. Then in September of 1941 the Germans began posting restrictions for Jews. At that point, Cyrla's uncle did not want her in their home, after all, as he said to his wife, `She's your family. Not our family, yours.' Unbeknownst to anyone Anneke has fallen in love with a young German soldier, Karl, and soon becomes pregnant. But, when Karl leaves Holland without a goodbye and her father becomes enraged, threatening to send her away, she become distraught and dies in an attempt to abort her baby. It soon becomes clear that Cyrla cannot remain in Holland, and she is urged by a friend to try to reach England. However, she has another idea, a very dangerous one. Sara Young has crafted a harrowing story of one of the most tragic aspects of World War II. It is both haunting and unforgettable. - Gail Cooke
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many books about WWll, but had never heard of the Lebesborn program. Very interesting with great characters and well written. One that I will think about for a long time!
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
This is a very compelling book about World War II, told from an entirely different perspective. It is told not from the point of view of the war and the soldiers or the camps, but rather the innocent citizens caught up in the turmoil and terror. The main character, Cyrla, is a mischling, which is what Germans called a person of mixed heritage, one not totally Aryan. She is young, barely 19, and often because of her pride she is careless and foolish. Her mistakes endanger others. She might even be considered promiscuous but the circumstances of the times called for extreme behavior in order to survive. Told from a point of view of the Holocaust which encompasses the German perspective, it casts a different light on the event. There were many who embraced the hate and horror of Hitler's design for the world but there were also many who quietly tried to do everything in their limited power to prevent it. Often, they were arrested and discarded in the same way as the Jews, criminals and others they thought defective. They too, were murdered and tortured. Cyrla enters a Lebensborn, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/Lebensborn.html a place for unwed mothers who, in exchange for food and care, produce future Aryan soldiers for the Reich. Some women enter the program and are impregnated by German soldiers deliberately. When too few babies are born, they expand the program to include other women from other countries deemed worthy. The children who are products of rape, by German soldiers, are adopted unless the soldier decides to enter the picture and take the child or marry the woman. As there proved to be a shortage of future soldiers, non Aryan babies from other countries were kidnapped and given to "good" Germans to adopt and raise. Cyrla enters in the identity of her cousin whom she resembles and who had been carefully screened, as an Aryan, for the program. The women in these homes are bearing children who will become Germany's future, soldiers for the Reich. Of course, Cyrla is not an Aryan, and the book is about her effort to survive and also those who help her. It is also about those who are evil and do their best not to help but to hinder her and further the cause of the Reich. It is presented fairly and honestly, not overdone. How she endures the trials life hands her make for a very interesting tale which opened my eyes to a different side of some Germans. Not all were Nazis, but all were hiding that fact for fear of their own lives. Those that risked their lives in an effort to defeat or confront the Nazis, often died or were tortured and punished. The effects of Hitler's madness were often subtle and insidious, discovered too late to stop him from his heinous plans. Although the pages almost turn themselves, the plot seems unrealistic, yet we know it happened in some form. The book opens a window onto a program in Germany, for German girls, that few know about and it does explore it well. I think many of the characters are very well developed so that you do get a real sense of who they are and how they suffer with the burden of the war, regardless of background or heritage.
msscarlettt More than 1 year ago
I rarely read fiction but made an exception for this book because of the subject matter. Having read many books about Nazi Germany as well as individual holocaust survivor stories, my interest was piqued in regards to the Lebensborn program which very little has been written about. Young does an excellent job of defining what the program was, who participated in it and the daily activities of the mothers and children who stayed in these homes. Even though I figured the plot out well in advance, Young did such a fine job of developing her main characters that I felt the need to find out if I was right and to read further to learn happens to them in the end. Parts of the book were slow and repetative however, I was involved enough with the story line that I read the book in one sitting. I was a bit disappointed on how she chose to end the book but afterward I was left with the feeling of wanting more which is why I gave it 5 stars. Overall it was well worth my time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I've read a lot of books about the Nazis, but I had never read anything about the "nursery" they created and the reasons for doing so. It is a very interesting book with an excellent plot and good character development. I recommend it highly.
pb42TX More than 1 year ago
This is a great book about a daring young woman living during dangerous times. Faced with tough decisions, she makes dangerous choices that she hopes will help her to stay alive. The story is unpredictable and full of suspense. I highly recommend it!
bnbookgirl on LibraryThing 3 days ago
I love when I learn things about history that I was unfamiliar with, or in this case totally oblivious of. The Lebensborn Organization was a home for girls who had gotten pregnant either by accident or on purpose, and their children were going to repopulate the Third Reichs future. I enjoyed the protaganist Cyrla and her journey, the fears she faced being half Jewish, and her resiliance in this time of atrocities. It was interesting to follow her as she matured from the start of the novel to the end. One of my favorite Holocaust fiction stories is Jenna Blum's, Those Who Save Us, and I must say this one did not meet those expectations, but it came close. I did feel it was a bit predictable, but moved along at a nice pace. The story kept me interested. For those readers of Holocaust fiction this is a good choice because of the little known subject matter. A good title for book group discussions as well.
berylweidenbach on LibraryThing 3 days ago
I looked forward to reading this book, a part of WWII that I new nothing about. German women encouraged to have as many children as possible for the fatherland and women, pregnant by German soldiers who met certain criteria sent to a maternity home run by the Nazi's. It was called the "Lebensborn" program which amounted to "SS breeding nurseries." Babies were confiscated with or without the mother's permission. The author gave what felt like an authentic peek into another form of autrocity perpetuated by the Nazi's Cyrla, a young girl, half jewish, has found this, through a series of relationships, to be the only place to hide and hopes to survive without being found out by using the identity of a deceased cousin. But there is no place that is safe for a Jew in hiding. There are many twists in this story with all the relationships, and nothing is as it seems. Therein lies the genuine fear which builds the tension for the impossible decisions to be made.The background and premise of this book are strong, and the story itself, well done. I had a problem with the main character Cyrla, and her recklessness. Yes, she was young (18) and inexperienced in life, much less war. But the reason she had been sent to relatives in Holland three years prior was because of the building fear of what would happen to Jews. Despite the tightening restrictions, and escalating fear, she never seemed to understand how serious the situation was and many times took unnecessary, foolish, dangerous chances that could have cost others their lives had she been caught. One of these chances resulted in her own brutal rape. It was extremely frustruating to watch her make so many bad decisions, right up until the very end of the story. Often she was willful and would not listen to reason, even holding on to evidence that proved she was Jewish. I liked the story very much, and I guess we all make unfortunate decisions at times, but others lives are usually not at stake. A suspenseful story, full of intrigue, heartbreak, hope, and the uncertain knowledge of what one would do to survive, and how you live with what you have done.
shaunnas on LibraryThing 3 days ago
I hesitate to recommend this book because it has more sexual content than I would usually tolerate. However, I really liked this story. Cyrla tells this story entire from her point of view. She is a Jewish girl in the Netherlands during World War II who through some unusual circumstances finds herself in the Nazi Lebensborn program. She is thought to be an "aryan" girl expecting the child of a German soldier. Cyrla is a character I still think about. The horrible choices people were forced to make at that time of history put Cyrla and others in this book in situations that bring out their inner character no other setting could. The resoluation of the story was unexpected but settling. Well written.
Sararush on LibraryThing 3 days ago
My Enemy¿s CradleSara Young¿s debut novel opens in Occupied Holland. After her mother¿s tragic death and her father and brother¿s disappearance, half Jewish and blond Cryla, is passing as Dutch and living with her mother¿s family. As the rules for Jews become increasingly stricter and the risk becomes too great, she finds a way into the exclusive Lebensborn program. Lebensborn, the cradle of life, is a German ran maternity house that breeds future soldiers for the glory of Germany. ¿The pram is mightier than the tank,¿ or so they say. In order to successfully navigate the program she will need to pose as her cousin, become pregnant, and hide her heritage. Everyday will be a fight to survive, and if she does she still has to escape¿ Though brave and determined Cyrla is left with very few people she can trust, many secrets, and certain death to her and her loved ones if she is caught.The story is part historical romance and greater parts an uneasy reminder into one of history¿s dark periods. Although the subject matter at time is unsettling, the novel is packed with suspense and surprises.
mayaspector on LibraryThing 3 days ago
What a surprising book! Firstly, because it's by the author of the kids' Clementine series, which I love. Secondly, because she writes about an aspect of the Holocaust I was unaware of - the Lebensborn. These were German maternity homes for unwed mothers intended to increase the population of "The Master Race." The novel tells the story of Cyrla, a half-Jewish gilr living with relatives in Holland, who decides to take the place of her dead cousin Anneke in the Lebensborn she was going to be sent to. A fasinating read about a young girl's choices in extremely difficult times.
julie10reads on LibraryThing 3 days ago
Yes, another WWII novel! My Enemy¿s Cradle is a highly readable account of Himmler¿s brainchild, the Lebensborn program: German maternity homes for the racially pure women who would give birth to future soldiers for the Reich. Ms Young places a fictional heroine, Cyrla (does that look Welsh to anyone else?) a half-Jewish Dutch woman, in one of these institutions and through her we hear the stories of the other expectant mothers and staff as well. As I read, I checked the spine to see if this was a YA book. Officially it¿s not, but the tone and pace give it that feeling. Just as well; the whole scheme is so creepy that I don¿t think I could have handled a graphic/gritty telling. I researched a bit more on the web and found that the Nazis did not stop at inseminating willing or unwilling women. They also kidnapped children from the countries they occupied and ¿Germanized¿ them. In 1946, it was estimated that more than 250,000 were kidnapped and sent by force to Germany. Only 25,000 were retrieved after the war and sent back to their families. During the ten years of the program¿s existence, at least 7,500 children were born in Germany and 10,000 in Norway. from Jewish Virtual Library
brainella on LibraryThing 3 days ago
This is a well written, wonderfully paced book about the life of a young (half) Jewish woman hiding in a Nazi Lebensborn home for pregnant women. The story of the Nazi homes for women pregnant by German soldiers is not well known. The whole concept surrounding the homes was horrifying, and this story helps illustrate an aspect of WWII that many do not know. The story starts in Holland, ends in Germany and describes many of the opinions people in Europe had about the Nazis, war and perceptions of the world at that time. Intriguing story.
LibrarysCat on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I read the uncorrected copy of this work by Sara Young, who has written a number of children's books undet the name of Sara Pennypacker. I loved this book.This is the story of a young Polish girl who was half Jewish. She was sent by her father to live with Dutch relatives, including a cousin she resembles in almost every way except perhaps temperment. It was her father's hope that she would stay safe during World War II. It is also the story of the Nazi machine and policies which encouraged young Aryan women to become pregnant, often by married soldiers, and give their babies to the Nazis to help populate Europe. The young girls' experiences and her understanding of how her safety and future were dictated by circumstances often beyond her control provide the reader with a somewhat different, and decidedly female, picture of the Holocaust.I read this book very quickly and loved every minute of it. I think it would be appropriate for a wide age range and hope that it will be used in History classes at multiple levels. Thank you to the publisher for providing these copies at ALA.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thanks for bringing this to light.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book. I’d like to see it as a movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worth the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. I found it impossible to put down once I started. A love story! Very interesting story...I liked the author very much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an incredibly sad and horrific story of yet another tragedy created by Hitler. I had never heard of these maternity homes and the whole concept of creating a Master Race is so purely evil it's hard to believe something like this could happen in the 20th Century. But, it did. Of course, I knew about his master race plans but had no idea this was how he tried to do it. How the Nazis got away with all the evil they did for as long as they did is something I'll never understand. We must all see to it that we never allow this kind of hatred of different races & religions to ever take hold again. You'll enjoy and learn much from this book but, be prepared to be heartbroken.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the beginning of book , development of characters seemed shallow versus main character narrating book seeming overly self depreciating . As book progressed could see that it was intentional for plot, after love triangles exposed. Did enjoy suspense but plot somewhat predictable , but worth it learning part of history I did not know. Unfortunately any love one of someone who has actual autism should skip reading the acknowledgments as it will ruin any enjoyment of having read the book. Autism is a true neurological disorder that research after the 1990's has proven is not caused by neglect or lack of parenting. However "autistic" was used to "label" real children exploited by the racism and cruelty of Nazi regime. Ironic as these children suffered into late adulthood because of having the stigma or " label" by society of being conceived to promote the master race propaganda. Their " autistic " traits where more likely a manifestation of severe withdrawal caused by abuse , neglect and trauma. Withdrawal in autism is caused by neurological disorder , not from lack of love or situational trauma . As a mother of son with Autism I find this " labeling" cruel myself , when your child suffers at the hand of society ignorance , you love them MORE, not less. And this author used "autistic" as a way to " label" children who tragically were NOT loved. Funny thing is back in the 1950's, autism was thought to be caused by mothers who emotionally neglected their children. To be blamed for your child's suffering is a nightmare, the helplessness is profound. Maybe the author should be more careful about labels, since the book is centered around racism after all.
abbyesi More than 1 year ago
Unbelievable; I did not realize this existed; terrible that the USA didn't realize what hitler was trying to accomplish; that's why we have reporters in the field now. God Bless them..(Notice i didn't capitalize hitler).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I happen to stumble upon this book and it was a great find. I've read so many books based on the holocaust and nazi germany. This book is one of my favorites. I've literally read it so many times. I wish the author written more books. When I first read this story I couldn't put it down and I was so sad to have reached the ending. Each page was so well written that you feel and picture every word. It was overall beautiful and sad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book, could not put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard to believe this is the authors first book! Every time I had to put it down I couldnt get it out of my mind! Truly riveting!!! Hope shes working on more books!