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In search of the father

He was the child of a forbidden love between a German national and a Polish slave labourer. At the age of 12, Wolfgang Bewarder first learned about his biological father. It took him another 52 years to muster the courage to find his own roots. His father died in 1975, but the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen made contact with a half brother in Poland. Bewarder describes his feelings during a visit to the ITS in late February as being “both overwhelming to me and very distant. I still can´t quite comprehend it.”

Only when he reached retirement age was Bewarder able to come to grips with his childhood. “At some point I was given my mother´s maiden name. Back then I didn´t know why,” he said. His father, whose name was on the birth certificate, was killed at war; inconsistencies which Bewarder could not explain. “My biggest worry in all those years was that my father was a local.” Bewarder told himself not to dig around as he didn´t know what he might find.

His older sister suspected early on that Wolfgang´s father was a Polish slave labourer named Pesta, on whose farm his mother had worked. Wolfgang repressed the idea. “A few years ago my wife and I went to a family reunion, where we were inspired to reopen this chapter in my life,” Bewarder remembers. Internet research and information from the public health insurance company in Bad Segeberg led him to the ITS.

The ITS´s records on Stanislaw Pesta show that he was a slave labourer at various locations in the Bad Segeberg district, including Hans Huckfeldt´s farm in Borstel – Bewarder´s family. On a registration card dated 5 September 1945, Pesta stated that he wanted to return to his birthplace or home town. The ITS team used this information to open an enquiry at the Polish Red Cross, which was able to locate a half brother in Warsaw.

“When I first read the ITS´s letter, I could not believe that it was about my father and my half brother,” said Bewarder, who lives in Hanover. “When I received a registered letter from my niece in Poland, I then realized what was happening.” In the meantime, both families visit and write to each other regularly. “I have gained a family, even though they couldn´t tell me much about my father. At home in Poland he didn´t talk about his time in Germany,” said Bewarder. His father´s house had burned down, leaving few if any mementoes. “I don´t even have a picture.” Bewarder believes it is important that others be helped as he was. “The ITS archive contains so many fates and stories which need to be told.”