The forgotten Wehrmacht children in Greece

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Historian and psychologist Dr. Kerstin Muth has researched the troublesome issue of Wehrmachtskinder in Greece – that is, the Greek children of Wehrmacht soldiers during the Axis occupation of Greece (1941-1944), in her book “Die Wehrmachmacht in Griechenland und ihre Kinder” (Wehrmacht in Greece and its children)”.

The specific number of  Wehrmacht children in Greece is unknown, since the issue has for years been a tabboo. There are no official figures and there is a climate of silence around the issue, yet Muth estimates that at least there are 200. It is a low number, and the reason might be that most pregnancies were aborted before birth on fears of stigmatization. Some historians even claim that the Orthodox Church helped women get abortions. «This is definitely a field that some historian should research», says Muth.

While there is plenty of information about the children in Norway, «which is very organized on the subject and which gave the women and children psychological support»,  France or the Netherlands, there is very little information in Greece or Italy.

But one thing is known: as in the Netherlands or France, these children and their mothers were subjected to public humiliation. Frequently, they heard on the street that they have a Wehrmacht father, or as they were called «γερμανομπάσταρδος» (Greek for “German bastard”). The mothers were discriminated against as well and the children suffered because of the stigmatized mother and the frequently unknown father. Quite often, the mothers blamed the children for their bad situation, while ironically, the absent father was frequently idealized.

Until recently, the existance and experience of the German soldiers’ children by Greek mothers have been kept on the sidelines. In 2006, a TV show on the Greek TV approached the issue. A few newspapers articles have been published, like this one (“Seeking the ‘children of the Wehrmacht’”) and this one (“The children of the Wehrmacht”). And a new documentary by  German filmmaker Thilo Pohle is under works. And las year, after publishing her book, Muth gave a conference about this issue at the Goethe Institut in Thessaloniki, Greece. Muth explained her research and the interviews she conducted with Greeks born of a German soldier during the occupation.

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Muth said she was lucky in the case of Greece because, with the help of the Evangelical community, she found a 60-year-old woman in Thessaloniki who confided in her. And she has some information about another person in the city, who does not wish to speak out, however. «It is difficult to bring up such a past. These people have been through hell in one form or another. Most of them guessed but their mothers never told them. They encountered discrimination at school, in the neighborhood, from relatives, everywhere”.

She could interview a number of Greek Wehrmacht children. Their experiences vary. Some of them complain that “Nobody told me anything for sixty years”, while others “always knew that I was German”. Some were able to meet their fathers in Germany, while others would never want to meet them.

indicate that the children were exposed to discrimination, stigmatisation
and violence due to the fact that their fathers belonged to the enemy.

How difficult it is to break such a taboo is demonstrated by the fact that even after five newspaper articles and one television film in 2006 only two children contacted her. Muth’s research was based on six studies, and the experiences of these six children of Wehrmachtssoldaten confirm what we has been seen in other countries. The children often grew up with secrecy surrounding their biological origin; they often lived in poverty with stigmatisation of being born out of wedlock in addition to being a “German bastard”. Muth argues that although the family constellations of the persons she interviewed differed, all seem psychologically damaged due to the discriminations they had experienced.

Despite this, in Greece the life stories of the Wehrmacht children is still a taboo and most Greek Wehrmachtskinder stay silent.

 

The forgotten Wehrmacht children in Greece