‘I was told my father had died,’ says daughter of German soldier
A JERSEY-BORN woman who discovered she was the illegitimate daughter of a German soldier stationed in the Island during the Occupation is the subject of a BBC documentary to be screened tonight.
Pauline Botting (75), who left the Island with her mother soon after the war and now lives in Somerset, talks to estranged members of her family in a bid to discover the truth about her father, Paul Klimaszewski. He left the Island before she was born.
Because of the stigma of being an enemy soldier’s baby, she was initially told that her father was French.
‘I didn’t even know that I was illegitimate. I was led to believe that my father had died,’ she said.
But she began to research her background, ordering a birth certificate, which curiously omitted the name of her father, and speaking to family members to piece together her father’s history.
Her mother, Olive Le Brun, died 15 years ago without revealing the whole story of a wartime romance with one of the German soldiers posted to the Island and, although Pauline later discovered a photograph of her father among her late grandfather’s possessions, she knew little about him or his fate after the war.
‘Everyone wants to know where they come from and I think it’s terrible for people to die and take secrets with them to their grave. I’d like to know: did he die? Did he make a new life? To get to 75 and know nothing is very sad,’ she said.
On the BBC’s Inside Out programme, Pauline speaks to family members who remember Paul Klimaszewski. They include her cousin Gladys Vautier, who tells her that her father was ‘a very kind person, very gentle’.
‘And I think he got on well with the family. I remember meeting your father at your grandpa’s house,’ she adds.
The number of children born to German fathers during the Occupation of the Channel Islands is the subject of some speculation, since official records do not include those who, like Olive Le Brun, were too ashamed to give the name of their baby’s father on its birth certificate – they simply left the columnblank.
‘I’ve got friends who have known me 40 years and they do not know anything about this. I know it wasn’t my fault – I was just born, but you carry that shame,’ Pauline told the BBC.
The Inside Out programme will be screened this evening at 7.30pm on BBC One and will be available afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.
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