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Reunited after 71 years: mother and daughter embrace

The Italian mother holds a photo album in her hands with pictures of her German daughter.

Seven decades after being torn apart from each other by the Nazi regime, an Italian mother and her German daughter have found each other again. Margot Bachmann, the daughter born in Germany in 1944, wanted certainty about her ancestry, and began the search for traces of her mother. Her search led her to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. In July 2015, staff members of the ITS found out: Gianna, the mother of Margot Bachmann and survivor of the forced labor camps of Nazi Germany, is 91 years old and living in Novellara, a small town in northern Italy. This past weekend, after more than 70 years, mother and daughter met for the first time since being separated. The reunion in Novellara was accompanied by staff members from the ITS and from the Italian Red Cross.

„I wanted to know who my mother was, whether we are alike, perhaps find some photos and information about her”, Margot Bachmann says. “I would never have dared to hope that I would ever be able to embrace her. Now I am overjoyed to find out that she is well and that we can get to know each other.” Her mother was born in 1924 and had been recruited as a worker by national socialist Germany. She had to work for the Nazi regime in a military news technology company, and was forced to live in a labor camp.

She fell in love with a German soldier, became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter Margot in October 1944. As early as November 1944, the Nazi “Welfare and Juvenile Office” denied the 20-year-old mother and forced laborer her right as guardian; Margot was taken to a children’s home. After the liberation in 1945 the mother returned to Italy, living in the assumption that her daughter and the father had died at the end of the war.

She didn’t know that the father of her child was already married. His family took Margot out of the children’s home. She grew up in this family with seven younger half-brothers and sisters. Questions about her biological mother were strictly forbidden – Margot knew only that her biological mother was Italian; Margot should believe that her mother had died. “Even as a child I felt that something about that wasn’t true.” Some time after the death of her very strict father, Margot gathered the courage to look for her mother. Her daughter helped her and together they found Margot’s certificate of baptism with the name of her mother. With this name they inquired at the German Red Cross, which then passed her inquiry on to the ITS, where staff members were able to find information in the ITS archives that made it possible to locate the mother in Novellara. Quickly determined, Ms. Bachmann and her family planned a first visit. In Novellara they met and got to know the mother and many other relatives, and are already planning their next reunion.

„What we experienced during that weekend in Novellara is close to a miracle,“ says Friederike Scharlau, ITS staff member who accompanied this first family reunion. “Nowadays it is extremely rare that parents and children separated by the Nazi regime find each other again. This is because many of the survivors of Nazi persecution have since passed away. In most cases it is the brothers and sisters of the following generation, or also cousins, that we can help bring together.”