After more than 70 years, Margot Bachmann, born in the midst of World War II, finally got to meet her mother, ending a lifetime of questions and uncertainty.
Bachmann’s mother had been recruited to work in Nazi Germany during World War II while Italy and Germany were still allied. When Italy switched sides following its capitulation to the Allies, her status became that of forced laborer.
She fell in love with a German soldier, became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter Margot in October 1944. In late 1944, the Nazi “Welfare and Juvenile Office” denied the 20-year-old mother her right as guardian, and Margot was taken to a children’s home, according to the International Tracing Service. The ITS’s mission includes tracing the fate of family members persecuted by the Nazis and their allies.
At war’s end in 1945 the mother returned to Italy under the assumption that her daughter and the father had died in the conflict’s waning months.
What Bachmann’s mother didn’t know is that the German soldier was already married. He not only survived the war but his family took Margot out of the children’s home.
Margot would grow up with seven half-brothers and sisters. Questions about Bachmann’s biological mother were strictly forbidden by her father, who wanted her to believe that her mother had died.
Although Bachmann suspected that the facts didn’t add up, it was only after her father died two years ago that she gathered the courage to try to find out what happened to her mother.
With the help of her own daughter, Bachmann found her baptismal certificate, which included the name of her mother. They then inquired at the German Red Cross, which passed her inquiry on to the International Tracing Service, where staff members were able to find information in its archives that made it possible to locate her mother, now 91 and living in Novellara, a small town in northern Italy.
Bachmann then wrote a letter to her mother:
“Dear Mum, my name is Margot Bachmann and I am your daughter, born on Oct 25 1944 in Heidelberg. All my life I asked my family about you, without being given any answers. I want to come and find you so that I can hug you once again. I’m immensely happy to be able to finally know you.”
Bachmann and her family traveled to Novellara earlier this month, where they met Bachmann’s mother and many other relatives.
During the encounter the mother said, “I’ve paid a lot, now I want to laugh.”
Bachmann’s mother prefers to remain anonymous, mindful of the lingering resentment towards Italian women who had romantic liaisons with German troops, according to The Telegraph.
“I wanted to know who my mother was, whether we are alike, perhaps find some photos and information about her,” Bachmann said. “I would never have dared to hope that I would ever be able to embrace her. Now I am overjoyed to find out that she is well and that we can get to know each other.”
Added Friederike Scharlau, an ITS staff member who accompanied this first family reunion, “What we experienced during that weekend in Novellara is close to a miracle. Nowadays it is extremely rare that parents and children separated by the Nazi regime find each other again. This is because many of the survivors of Nazi persecution have since passed away. In most cases it is the brothers and sisters of the following generation, or also cousins, that we can help bring together.”
(Top: Margot Bachmann’s mother looks at a photograph during her reunion with her daughter earlier this month. Photo credit: Red Cross Italy.)
(HT: The History Blog)