Tracing Roots Fostered by War, Severed by Shame

I remember hearing similar stories about relationships between Vietnamese women and US troops during the war. And that often the children were maltreated. I hadn’t realized this was also true for France and Germany.

The so-called enfants de Boches — roughly, children of the Huns — born during the war to French women and German soldiers, are seeking to fill a hole in their lives, hunting for long-lost German fathers they never knew and speaking openly of the maltreatment they suffered from their French neighbors. It is estimated that 200,000 children were born of these wartime love affairs.

Photos of the time depict young women, their heads shorn in shame, being hounded through villages, clutching the children of German fathers. About 20,000 women had their heads shaved. Many rejected the children, gave them up for adoption or placed them in orphanages.

But now these children, in their late 60s, are struggling to put their lives in order while there is still time. They have formed an association and sought the help of the German and French governments to try to identify their fathers, in many cases already dead, or families that their fathers founded in Germany after the war.

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