Montag, 4. Februar 2013

Tyskerbarna - The Children Left Behind

Just in case you wonder why you haven't heard from me in a while - I've been on vacation in Norway.
And thanks, yes, I really enjoyed it. We went by ferry, crossing the Baltic Sea ...

... arriving in Oslo the next day.

"Slottet" (Oslo castle)

Then we moved north to a small town called Geilo - by car. Did I mention we attended a 4x4 offroad meeting?

On a frozen lake at Dagali flyplass, Norway
Yes, it's me behind the wheel. And of course this nice little car is a stick shift.

You might assume I don't think about genealogy while on vacation in a country in which I have only friends but no relatives.

If you do - sorry, you're wrong...

Have you ever heard about the "tyskerbarna"? It's the Norwegian term for children whose fathers were stationed as soldiers during the German occupation of Norway during WWII.

The German Wehrmacht occupied Norway in 1940 and stayed until the capitulation in May 1945. It is estimated that during these years about 12,000 children were born to Norwegian mothers and German fathers. About 8,000 of these children were part of the "Lebensborn" program.

As a part of the N*zi racial fanaticism, German soldiers were not discouraged to beget children with Norwegian women because Norwegians were considered to be "pure Aryans".

(It still gives me shivers even to write about ill and horrifying thoughts like this one.)

These children (and also their mothers) were not treated very nicely by the post-war Norwegian authorities. When you were born in one of the "Lebensborn" homes, you could be institutionalized just because it was assumed that if your mother got involved with a German, she must have been mentally ill and you must have inherited her insanity or at least her debility. We're talking about forced adoptions, violence and sexual abuse here.

This happened without regard to the nature of the relations between the Norwegian mothers and German fathers. Some people might have fallen truly in love, other women were probably raped, others might have thought their life would be a little easier if they slept with the enemy. Today we know there is no black or white here - it's just shades of gray...

It took more than 40 years for the state of Norway to apologize to the "tyskerbarna" for the way they had been treated.

When it comes to genealogy, there are uncertaincies on both sides of the Skagerrak. 

Even today, Germans might discover that they indeed have a Norwegian half-brother or -sister they hadn't known of.

On the other hand, Norwegians who were born as "tyskerbarna" will find it difficult to trace the German part of their families, especially when they don't have a clue where exactly their father came from. Very close to the end of WWII, many of the files concerning the German military were destroyed during the bombing of Berlin. In addition to that, it is assumed that quite a number of the Norwegian identification papers were tampered with in order to conceal the children's German heritage. So here we have a potential for forensic genealogists and DNA testing. 

I'm glad that times have changed. Germans nowadays come to Norway in peace, either to travel and enjoy this really beautiful country or to work in a open-minded society. And a really beautiful country it is! 

I really hope to be back next year!

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