Get ready to feel conflicted.
It's 1936 and the Nazis are in full swing. They're three years into what will become the infamous Lebensborn (Fount of Life) program. The program's aim is to complete Hitler's vision of a pure Aryan race based on Nazi health and racial ideology.
Unmarried women are brought to facilities to be impregnated, the babies are then adopted by carefully selected parents that will install in the children Nazi values.
This is when we meet Max, in the womb of his mother. He's already got things figured out, how he'll help the Third Reich crush its enemies when he's strong enough. At least, he thinks he does.
Born on Hitler's birthday and possessing all of the qualities of a perfect Aryan baby, Max is untouchable, the perfect Nazi gift. Hitler himself visits the hospital to see the amazing specimen that is Max.
As Max gets older, he's given special tasks, being the chosen one and all. He's sent undercover to "Germanification" camps, places where the Hitler Youth are trained to fight in future wars against the unsure. Max's job is to weed out the weaklings and see if anyone is plotting against the regime in any way possible.
Everything changes when Max meets Lukas. Without spoiling too much, Lukas is the Cool Hand Luke (probably aptly named) character of the camp. He refused to acknowledge the perfection of the Reich and openly rebels against it.
At first, Max hates Lukas and the way he flaunts his independent thinking. As the horrors of war draw nearer, however, Max is torn between the propaganda he was born into and the reality he sees before him.
I really loved this novel. It makes you feel empathy for a character who, initially at least, embraces everything evil about the Nazi regime. It is a really heartbreaking story that will make you angry and teary at the same time.
This is an important book that's based on true events: over 200,00 children were kidnapped from their homes by Nazi nurses (The Brown Sisters) in occupied countries to be "Germanized" during the war. The names of the organizers of the Fount of Life program, Max Sollman and George Ebner, were real people who were found not guilty of any criminal activity during the Nuremberg trials.
A must read for anyone interested in the Second World War and the brutality it brought upon the people of Europe, Germans and all.
I'd recommend this novel to Years 10 and up.