Seventy years later, mother and daughter separated by Nazis reunite

Seventy years later, mother and daughter separated by Nazis reunite
12 August 2015
By Timo Lindemann and Niels C Sorrells

Mother and daughter reunited after 70 years - © ITS/Bad Arolsen, EPA

Berlin (dpa) - When Margot Bachmann began her search for her mother - from whom she was separated by the Nazi German government in 1944 - the odds looked slim that she would get solid facts, much less a reunion.

Instead, thanks to the help of the International Tracing Service (ITS), the 70-year-old found her mother alive and well, aged 91, in Italy.

"I wanted to find out who my mother was, to see if we were alike, maybe find some photos and some information," Bachmann said in an ITS press release. "I never dared to hope that I would be able to hold her in my arms. Now I'm overjoyed that she's doing well and I got to meet her."

Bachmann's mother, identified as Gianna, was a forced labourer taken from Italy to work in Germany during the war. During her time there, she fell in love with a German soldier and got pregnant. Bachmann was subsequently born in October 1944, but Nazi authorities severed the mother's parental rights the next month. After the war ended, Gianna returned home, believing that her daughter and lover had died in the war. In truth, Bachmann was saved from an orphanage by her father, who already had a wife, and raised by that couple, eventually becoming the older sister to seven others.

The two had their reunion at the weekend in Novellara, the small town in northern Italy where Gianna now lives. "What we experienced this weekend in Novellara borders on a miracle," said Friederike Scharlau, an ITS employee who accompanied the family at the reunion. "These days, it is extremely rare that parents and children separated by the Nazi regime can be reunited. After all, many survivors of the Nazi period are dead. "Usually, reunions today involves siblings from the subsequent generations, or cousins."

ITS discovered Gianna's whereabouts in July. The mother had traveled to Germany to work when Germany and Italy were wartime allies. However, when parts of Italy fell under Allied control, Germany began acting as an occupier in parts of the country still under the fascist government. As a consequence of that, many Italians in Germany were converted to forced labour status. Gianna ended up sentenced to life working in a military installation. She was 20 at the time of Bachmann's birth and had no idea her lover already had a wife.

Meanwhile, Bachmann was raised by her Germany family, forbidden to ask too many questions about her mother. She was told that her mother was Italian and was led to belief that she was dead. "Even as a child, I had the sense that something wasn't right," said Bachmann, who now lives near Frankfurt, said she only got the courage to look for her birth mother years after her father, whom she described as strict, died. Aided by her own daughters, she tracked down her birth certificate and ended up with the ITS, an archive and documentation centre that tracks Nazi persecution and the fates of those who survived. The trip to Novellara came quickly after that, during which she met multiple other relatives. An additional visit is already being planned.

Source: dpa.