My inspiration for A Mother’s War came from a news article, ‘Children of Shame.’ It was about the children born to Norwegian mothers and German fathers during the occupation of Norway in WW2. I began to wonder what it must have been like for the women who had a relationship with the enemy and then became pregnant. Many went to a Lebensborn maternity home, a lesser-known story of WW2. Lebensborn means source or well of life and was the scheme of SS Chief Heinrich Himmler to entice unwed expectant mothers of ‘pure blood’ to further the Aryan race.
My fascinating research included reading memoirs of the German occupation of Norway, numerous books and reports on Lebensborn, and watching historical documentaries. I travelled to Norway and was inspired to weave the beautiful landscape and rich culture into my novel.
As I researched behind the benevolent façade of Lebensborn homes I learned about its sinister agenda and incorporated this into the story. Lebensborn was a secretive Nazi organisation and the mothers involved were either too scared, ashamed or had other reasons to remain silent about their experiences once the war was over. The homes remained shrouded in mystery and even the German population knew little about them.
The first Lebensborn homes opened in Germany in 1933 and were opened in other counties during the war. Norway, with 11 homes had the most outside of Germany.
One particular memoir I read was written by a Norwegian woman who experienced the invasion of Narvik in 1940 and the subsequent occupation. Her story was the inspiration for the setting of my story, Narvik, a port 220km inside the Arctic Circle. Due to the gulf stream, the port remains ice-free through the winter and was strategically important to Germany’s war plans: valuable iron ore was dug at Kiruna, Sweden, and railed to Narvik for export. Hitler needed the ore for weapon and military vehicle manufacture. Also Narvik’s position on the North Sea and accessibility to Britain was of military importance.
There was a well-organised resistance movement which ferried spies, refugees and equipment over the North Sea between Norway and the Shetland Islands. This was run by courageous fishermen and became known as the Shetland Bus, which features at the end of the book.
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