The "Boche Bastards" Are Haunting FranceRoundup: Talking About History
Charles Bremner, in the London Times (May 5, 2004):
A new book has exposed the shameful abuse of the 'Boche bastards', Charles Bremner in Paris writes.
ALMOST six decades after liberation from the Nazis, France is being confronted with a shameful and neglected legacy of the war: the cruel treatment of about 200,000 French children who were fathered by German soldiers.
Accounts by 15 of the so-called "Boche bastards", published this week, have shed light for the first time on the extent to which liberated France not only punished women who consorted with the enemy but also inflicted lifetime punishment on their illegitimate children.
"This anti-child racism, which was carried out...thousands of times in France in the ten to fifteen years after the war remains a grave and indelible wrong for the history of our country," Jean-Paul Picaper, who gathered the accounts in a book, said.
Harrowing tales of abandonment, orphanages, suicide attempts and general cruelty pour from the pages of Enfants Maudits (Blighted Children), which Picaper wrote with Ludwig Norz, an official at the German military archives.
Daniel Rouxel, born in 1943 of his mother's affair with a handsome young Wehrmacht officer, describes how his grandmother kept him locked every night in a hen coop in a postwar Breton village. A council official had summoned the inhabitants to the church to tell them that they had a "baby Boche" in their midst. "I needed to love and everyone refused me love. One suffered horribly," he says.
Norbert, who was born in 1944 and withholds his surname, says that he still trembles and stutters when he tells people "my father was a German soldier".
A common theme emerges from the accounts: the search by the war children -now aged between 59 and 63 -to trace their fathers and the obstruction that many met.
Some managed to make contact with their German families, but many others were rejected by relatives who feared financial demands and wanted to forget the war.
Henriette, who was born in the Somme to a mother who later was convicted of collaboration offences, describes how, as a lonely schoolgirl, she would seek out groups of German tourists and say to them: "Deutsch? Mein Vater ist Deutsch."
While France began coming to terms in the 1970s with the scale of its collaboration with the occupying Germans, until now it has refused to acknow ledge the suffering inflicted on the war babies and their descendants, who now number about a million. "Our country has stayed silent on the subject, indifferent to them, neglecting a problem that politicians, historians, educators and psychologists should have dealt with," Picaper, who served as Berlin correspondent for Le Figaro for 26 years, said.
The war children were mainly not the product of rape or prostitution but of affairs between les petites francaises and young Germans who were often accepted into French families in the early, gentler, years of the occupation.
There was no deliberate French policy of ostracising the war babies. They were
simply stigmatised by both sides. The Germans banned their personnel from liaisons
with French women, who were considered an inferior race. By contrast, children
of the Scandinavian and Dutch occupation were deemed Aryan and cared for by
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Celine A Cell - 9/24/2005
I am trying to get in touch with people who were born of a German or an American soldier during WWII and a French mother. I am currently enrolled in a doctoral program at the Sorbonne studying the life of these children, how they were accepted or rejected by their mother, by society, the relationship with their father (if any), etc. I work on autobiographies and I would like to be able to meet some of these people and talk with them in order to make my research more personal and humane. Please email any comment, advice or contact information at firstname.lastname@example.org. I live in the US so I can meet people here but I also go back to France very often so I could also meet people there. It would be a great pleasure for me to know more about you and what you went through. Thank you so much!