Author: Ingrid von Oelhafen & Tim Tate
Hitler’s Forgotten Children came about when Tim Tate made a TV film/documentary for Channel 5 in 2013. Tim and his camera men followed Ingrid on parts of her journey to find her true birth identity, not the false identity she had grown up believing. Unfortunately, the documentary was only 60 minutes and Ingrid’s story didn’t feature in the final cut, which led Tim to encourage Ingrid to write a book. Lo and behold, here we are.
Ingrid von Oelhafen grew up as a German girl, with two German parents. Her mother, Gisela, was unfeeling and cold towards her young daughter, and as she grew up her father and mother separated. Ingrid was sent to a children’s home, where she yearned for the love of her mother constantly. When she was eleven, Ingrid was told by her housekeeper that her parents were in fact not her biological parents. They had fostered her, and her real name was Erika Matko.
And so begins Ingrid’s seventy year journey to find the truth about her origins. She has no idea about the secrets and lies she will uncover, and the truth, when she eventually discovers it, is not something she wants to hear. As someone who reads non-fiction books such as this one quite often, I was pleased overall with the narrative voice of Ingrid, and readers will really feel for her personal struggles to get answers to questions no one wants to answer. Her determination is admirable, and her positivity is outstanding, considering some of the hardships she has faced.
Hitler’s Forgotten Children informs readers about the Lebensborn programme, the brainchild of Himmer, with the aim to create an Ayran master race. It is a part of the Third Reich I had not heard much about before, and I was surprised to say the least about the things that it entailed. Pure blooded German women and men were encouraged to procreate, and in turn Himmler’s Lebensborn maternity units would be there for the women to give birth in. The child was then fostered, and in some cases adopted, by a family of, again, pure blooded German’s with the aim to bring up strong Nazi children, who would grow into the perfect men and women. The men would be part of the future SS and the women able to birth more ‘perfect’ children. Of course, this didn’t go to plan at all, and the result is people like Ingrid, adults trying desperately to find their real families in post-war Germany before it’s too late.
Ingrid’s story is a harrowing tale, and I feel we owe it to her to at least try and understand what she alone has had to go through over the years, simply to find out what the rest of us take for granted: our true identity.