Beyond History Blog

2 Families, 2 Generations, 2 Continents, 1 Search, 0 Birth dates

Avatar of Andrea Bentschneider Andrea Bentschneider - 30. August 2016 - Family, General, WWII, Personalities

Back in 2011, we received an inquiry from an Australian client who had been born in Rotenburg/Wümme, Germany shortly after World War II. Her father had been stationed there as a soldier in the German air force. After a short British war imprisonment he decided to return to his wife and two children to his home town Vienna, Austria. This decision meant that he left the mother of our client and his illegitimate daughter, our client, even before she was born. After these events the family of our client never heard of the man again.

After 65 years, the daughter finally wanted to know who her biological father was - what kind of person had he been, had he lived a happy life, when and where had he died? She hoped to find answers to all these questions with our help.

 

Our first research approaches in Vienna were unsuccessful - which is not surprising considering that we knew nothing apart from the man's name; not even his place or date of birth were known. Usually, the birth date is essential for genealogical research because it is necessary to clearly identify a person in the archival or official documents.

A few years passed without further research and without more findings. In summer 2015, our client got back to us, this time with an assumed date of birth; however, it was uncertain if this date was even approximately correct.

This time we tried to "put the cart before the horse" and requested information about the person we looked for in Rotenburg, but again without success. There were no historical documents available containing any information about the father of our client. At last we tried to use the information we had about his military career and his war imprisonment for our purposes and requested his military file at the military archive in Berlin. Normally, an inquiry at this archive is pointless without an exact birth date due to the immense amount of personal files kept there. We talked in detail about the family history with the archivist and explained the situation to him. As we had very detailed information about the stay of the person we looked for in Rothenburg, the archivist could indeed identify one, and only one, soldier in the military records which also revealed his birth date.

Thanks to the straightforward and committed assistance of the archivist we finally knew the correct and exact birth date of our client's biological father - a huge breakthrough.

The subsequent research in Austria was comparatively easy; we found out where the family had lived, both the date and place of death of our client's father as well as the cemetery where he was buried. Moreover, the addresses of the two half-siblings of our client were found, too. We wrote to both of them because our client wished to make contact with living relatives from her father's side. On the one hand this would be an opportunity for her to find answers to her personal questions about her father, on the other hand she simply was very happy to learn that she still had living relatives from her father's side.

To our great regret our letters stayed unanswered and hope had almost faded when we received a message from the archivist in Berlin.

Independent from our research he had received an inquiry from a grandson of our client's father. He wanted to learn more about his grandfather's military career during World War II. The archivist let us know that he would be very happy to forward a personal letter of our client to the grandson, who until his inquiry at the archive had had no idea of his relatives in Australia, and thus possibly brings about a family reunion. Our client accepted this offer immediately. Only a few weeks later she got back to us and informed us very happily that her newly found half-nephew had sent her an email and that he was very interested in maintaining contact with her.

Thus after 70 years, a family reunion was made possible which had its origins in a name,where no place or date of birth could be connected to and which stretches out over two families in two generations living on two continents.

We would like to express our gratitude towards the archivist in Berlin once again without whom this would not have been possible.

 

 

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