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“My grandchildren must know where they're from”

In November 2016, the American Patricia Donahue travelled to the ITS together with her sister and her cousin. They were looking for information about their grandparents who had been subjected to forced labour and about their grandparents’ six children. The past had never been discussed in their family.

“They never had the chance to be children”, Patricia Donahue says about the early years of her mother’s life and that of her siblings. Patricia Donahue’s mother, Emma Jaszukow, was six years old when the Second World War ended with the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. She was the second youngest of six siblings. According to records of the International Tracing Service (ITS), her parents had been forced to labour at the Creussen Carl Tabel metal works from 1943 until 1945. Her father had been a lathe operator. Originally the family came from Papovka in Belarus. Patricia Donahue knows that her grandfather rejected Communism. It is possible that the family headed westwards voluntarily and then became caught in the nightmare of forced labour for the NS regime. It is no longer possible to establish when the children came to Germany. Their names are first mentioned in documents of the Allies some time after 1945.

After liberation by the Americans, the family found themselves on an odyssey through the different Displaced Persons Camps (DP Camps) in Bavaria. A large number of DP registration documents at the ITS archive are proof of this and provided extensive new information for the three visitors. The first stop was the large camp in Wildflecken close to Bad Brückenau, where, for quite a while, 17,000 primarily Polish DPs lived under miserable conditions. Further stops followed, among them stays in Osterhofen and Rosenheim, until the family reached Erlangen as “foreigners without a homeland”. During the late 1940s the older siblings succeeded in emigrating to Australia and to America. Emma, her younger sister Jadwiga and their parents were left behind. Jadwiga, born in 1942, had tuberculosis and was in a poor state of health, a fact which is also proven by the files from the ITS archive. These diseases were probably the reason why no country was willing to receive the Jaszukows.

In Erlangen in the late 1950s, Patricia Donahue’s mother Emma fell in love with Richard Webb, a member of the American military, and married him. For the sake of his wife, Richard repeatedly had himself stationed in Germany so that their daughters grew up in both countries. In November 2016, the two daughters came to the ITS together with their cousin Zora. These three American women were on their way to their aunt Jadwiga in Erlangen. “We will celebrate her birthday and show her the documents we received here,” Patricia Donahue said. “Jadwiga herself does not know anything about the history of the family. She cannot remember anything, as she was so young. The rest of the family has already passed away.” All three women described a feeling of rootlessness which links them. They had hardly any information about the family’s past, which makes them extremely grateful for every new detail provided. “My grandchildren must know where they come from”, Patricia Donahue says about the aim of her search.