70 JAAR WO II/ Paul Schmitz, Kriegskind (War Child)

[:nl]Paul Schmitz, Kriegskind (War Child)
Die Suche nach meinem Amerikanischen Vater
(The search for my American father)

Vorig jaar in Berlijn ontmoetten we Paul Schmitz op het achtste Forum van BOW i.n. (Born of War, international Network) gehouden op 25 oktober 2014. Paul is de zoon van een Duitse moeder en Amerikaanse vader, geboren in 1945. Hij vertelde op de conferentie zijn verhaal.

Het BOW netwerk bestaat uit diverse organisaties van Europese kinderen ‘born of war’. Gemeenschappelijk is dat ze niet geboren zouden zijn wanneer er geen oorlog zou zijn gevoerd tussen landen die elkaars grondgebied bezetten of bevrijden. Het is verbazingwekkend dat overal buitenlandse vaders kinderen achterlieten bij vrouwen van het land met wie ze een verhouding hadden: Finland (Russen en Duitsers), Polen (idem), Elzas (Duitsers en Fransen), Skandinavië (Duitsers), Nederland (Duitsers, Canadezen), Duitsland (Geallieerden), België, enzovoort. De landen voeren oorlog maar wat kinderen betreft zijn de consequenties een privé zaak van burgers;  staten en overheden bieden niet of nauwelijks hulp wanneer kinderen naar hun vader gaan zoeken.

kriegskind Paul Schmitz schreef een mooi boek over zijn ervaringen als kind en zijn zoektocht naar zijn vader. Bij het Ardennenoffensief lag zijn Amerikaanse vader in de buurt van Sourbrodt in België. Daar had hij een verhouding met Paul’s moeder. Zij en haar familie moest het dorp vanwege de gevechten verlaten. Na de strijd keerden zij terug naar een volledig verwoeste buurt, ze waren alles kwijt. De moeder was zwanger, en met angst in het hart, moest zij op een gegeven moment haar familie inlichten. Haar grootvader was meevoelend en flink en het kind werd geaccepteerd. Dat was een hele opluchting want in veel andere gevallen werden deze kinderen als ‘schande’ ervaren. Paul werd ook niet aan een instelling afgestaan. Hij groeide op als een angstige en stille jongen, zonder vader. Over deze werd niet gesproken. Pas rond zijn 14e werd hij zich bewust dat zijn vader een Amerikaanse soldaat was. Zijn moeder zei dat hij John heette, en méér kwam hij niet te weten.

titlePaul schrijft: “het moet als een catastrofe gevoeld hebben: in een ineenstortend sociaal systeem waar de oude waarden nog in de geest aanwezig zijn, ontmoeten een man en een vrouw elkaar, die dat niet behoren te doen: jonge vrouw en een militair van de bezettende macht. Terwijl zwangerschap tijdens huwelijk de norm was, en over seksualiteit werd gezwegen, werd een kind geschapen, dat dit beeld aan diggelen gooide.”

 

Na 60 jaar begon Paul serieus te zoeken. Na vele teleurstellingen, gelukstreffers, valse sporen, en eindeloze gesprekken met familieleden en dorpelingen, kwam hij geleidelijk dichter bij de waarheid. In Sourbrodt bleek een geneeskundig bataljon gestationeerd te zijn geweest, waar zijn vader deel van uitmaakte. Maar wie?  Een contact met een soldaat van die compagnie gaf hoop, maar het liep op een mislukking uit. Deze man was geen ‘hospik’. Een grote teleurstelling. Velen bleken ook niet bereid te praten over hun oude maten. Uiteindelijk vond hij iemand die zeer coöperatief was.  Foto’s van soldaten met namen en gezichten kwamen boven water. Hij liet ze zien aan oude tantes. De vele gesprekken met hen stimuleerden haar geheugens. In US-archieven werden vier ‘Johns’ geïdentificeerd als waarschijnlijke kandidaat. Met vereende inspanning vond hij een zekere John K. Fitzmiller. Hij was overleden en had twee dochters.

Hij schreef hen een korte brief, waarop een antwoord kwam. Daarna schreef hij een hele lange brief. Een dochter zond foto’s en informatie over haar vader. Hij was huisarts geweest van 1948 tot 1988. Zijn interesses waren postzegels en goudvissen. Hij was geliefd, vriendelijk, rustig en gereserveerd. Zij verwelkomde het idee mogelijk een halfbroer te hebben. Na vele contacten wees een DNA-test in 2010 uit dat hij zijn vader had gevonden. Paul bezocht de V.S. voor een bezoek aan het graf van zijn vader en om zijn halfzussen te zien.

Het voelde als een nieuw begin. Terugblikkend ziet hij zijn jeugd als in beslag genomen door de vele vraagtekens over zijn identiteit. Hij had eigenlijk eerder hieraan moeten werken, dacht hij. Hij had geleefd als een ‘Kriegskind’. Hij besluit (ingekort): “Ik was altijd stil, en had lange tijd niet de moed vragen te stellen. Ik was bang opnieuw vernederingen te moeten ondergaan. Over mijn identiteit werd niet vrijuit gesproken. Alleen door mijn eigen initiatief en inspanning kwam ik iets meer te weten. ER was een leegte in mijn hart, en ik voelde me daarin niet begrepen. Maar dit alles was in het verleden nu. Mijn ziel was weer geheeld.”

 [:en]Paul Schmitz, Kriegskind (War Child)
Die Suche nach meinem Amerikanischen Vater
(The search for my American father)

Last year in Berlin we met Paul Schmitz at the 8th Forum of Children Born of War (BOW) on October 25, 2014. Paul is the son of a German mother and an American father, born in 1945. At the conference he told his story.

The BOW international network consists of organisations of all sorts of European children ‘born of war’. At this Forum the JIN association presented for the first time its story of the Japanese Indonesian- Dutch Descendants. (See these links for info presented in English and German Info JIN,english and JIN info in Deutsch, 2014). A common denominator is the fact that all these children would not have been born without countries being at war, its military forces battling each other, and occupying and liberating countries. It is amazing to see that everywhere babies were left behind by foreign fathers who had relationships with ‘local women’: in Finland (Russians and Germans), Elzas Lotharingen (French and Germans), Germany (Allied Forces), Poland (Russians, Germans), Scandinavia (Germans), Netherlands (Germans, Canadians), Belgium, etc. A common experience for these children is the lack of support after the war. The consequences were mostly treated as a private matter between citizens. The states did not offer much help when children started looking for their fathers.

kriegskindPaul Schmitz wrote a marvellous book about his experiences as a child and his efforts to find his American father. During the evacuation 1944/45 (Ardennen-offensive) his mother had in Sourbrodt (Belgium) a relationship with an American soldier. Paul grew up without knowing. His mother kept it a secret. After the battle the family returned to a destroyed village. They had lost everything. The mother was pregnant. Eventually she had to admit, with fear, what had happened, but her father was graceful and the family accepted her and her baby. This was a big relief, in many other cases these children were regarded as ‘children of shame’. The family resisted recommendations to put Paul in an institution for child care. He grew up as a shy and fearful child without a father. About him nothing was said. Around his 14th year he became aware that his father was an American soldier. His mother told him his first name was John, but very little else.

titleHe writes: “It must have felt like a catastrophe: in a time that the social system collapses but its values remain alive, a man and a woman meet each other who should according to society not meet: young women and occupying soldiers. While pregnancy during marriage is the norm and sexuality was hidden in the background, a child is created, which disturbs this ideal image.”
After 60 years Paul started a serious search. After many disappointments, lucky breaks, false trails, endless conversations and interviews with family members like aunts and villagers he came gradually nearer to the truth. It turned out that in Sourbrodt the 324th Med. Batt. (Headquarter and Company B) had been stationed and that his father was a medical officer. But who? A contact with a soldier of that company gave hope but a letter of his family smashed it: he could not be the man because he was not a medic. A huge disappointment. Furthermore, many were not willing to help, even veterans refused to tell anything about other soldiers. Then he found a contact in the U.S. who was very cooperative. Pictures were found of this particular military unit with faces and names. He showed them to his old aunts. The many talks about the past stimulated their memories. At the same time four possible ‘Johns’ were found in U.S. military archives. With combined efforts he succeeded in finding a certain John K. Kitzmiller as the most likely candidate. He died in 1994, but he had two daughters. He wrote them a short letter.

One daughter answered promptly. He replied with a very long letter. She sent pictures of her father and information about him. Her father had been a family doctor between 1948- 1988. His hobby’ s were collecting postage stamps and breeding gold fish. He was well-liked and respected and was known as a friendly, lovable, quiet, and reserved person. She welcomed the idea she might have a half-brother in Europe. After many contacts a DNA test confirmed in 2010 that he had found his biological father. Paul travelled to the States to visit his father’s grave and his half-sisters. It felt like a new beginning in a second life. In retrospect he sees his childhood as closed because of the many question marks about his identity. He feels he should have started to work on these issues earlier. He missed ‘father talk’. Because of his search he became more aware that he lived in his childhood as a ‘Kriegskind’. He concludes (abbreviated):
“I was always silent, and I had for a long time not the courage to ask any questions. I feared meeting with humiliations which I had so often already experienced. About my identity one never spoke freely. Only because of my own questioning I had learned something. There was an emptiness in my heart and I did not feel understood. But this was all in the past now. My soul was healed again.”[:ja]Paul Schmitz, Kriegskind (War Child)
Die Suche nach meinem Amerikanischen Vater
(The search for my American father)

Last year in Berlin we met Paul Schmitz at the 8th Forum of Children Born of War (BOW) on October 25, 2014. Paul is the son of a German mother and an American father, born in 1945. At the conference he told his story.

The BOW international network consists of organisations of all sorts of European children ‘born of war’. At this Forum the JIN association presented for the first time its story of the Japanese Indonesian- Dutch Descendants. (See these links for info presented in English and German Info JIN,english and JIN info in Deutsch, 2014). A common denominator is the fact that all these children would not have been born without countries being at war, its military forces battling each other, and occupying and liberating countries. It is amazing to see that everywhere babies were left behind by foreign fathers who had relationships with ‘local women’: in Finland (Russians and Germans), Elzas Lotharingen (French and Germans), Germany (Allied Forces), Poland (Russians, Germans), Scandinavia (Germans), Netherlands (Germans, Canadians), Belgium, etc. A common experience for these children is the lack of support after the war. The consequences were mostly treated as a private matter between citizens. The states did not offer much help when children started looking for their fathers.

kriegskindPaul Schmitz wrote a marvellous book about his experiences as a child and his efforts to find his American father. During the evacuation 1944/45 (Ardennen-offensive) his mother had in Sourbrodt (Belgium) a relationship with an American soldier. Paul grew up without knowing. His mother kept it a secret. After the battle the family returned to a destroyed village. They had lost everything. The mother was pregnant. Eventually she had to admit, with fear, what had happened, but her father was graceful and the family accepted her and her baby. This was a big relief, in many other cases these children were regarded as ‘children of shame’. The family resisted recommendations to put Paul in an institution for child care. He grew up as a shy and fearful child without a father. About him nothing was said. Around his 14th year he became aware that his father was an American soldier. His mother told him his first name was John, but very little else.

titleHe writes: “It must have felt like a catastrophe: in a time that the social system collapses but its values remain alive, a man and a woman meet each other who should according to society not meet: young women and occupying soldiers. While pregnancy during marriage is the norm and sexuality was hidden in the background, a child is created, which disturbs this ideal image.”
After 60 years Paul started a serious search. After many disappointments, lucky breaks, false trails, endless conversations and interviews with family members like aunts and villagers he came gradually nearer to the truth. It turned out that in Sourbrodt the 324th Med. Batt. (Headquarter and Company B) had been stationed and that his father was a medical officer. But who? A contact with a soldier of that company gave hope but a letter of his family smashed it: he could not be the man because he was not a medic. A huge disappointment. Furthermore, many were not willing to help, even veterans refused to tell anything about other soldiers. Then he found a contact in the U.S. who was very cooperative. Pictures were found of this particular military unit with faces and names. He showed them to his old aunts. The many talks about the past stimulated their memories. At the same time four possible ‘Johns’ were found in U.S. military archives. With combined efforts he succeeded in finding a certain John K. Kitzmiller as the most likely candidate. He died in 1994, but he had two daughters. He wrote them a short letter.

One daughter answered promptly. He replied with a very long letter. She sent pictures of her father and information about him. Her father had been a family doctor between 1948- 1988. His hobby’ s were collecting postage stamps and breeding gold fish. He was well-liked and respected and was known as a friendly, lovable, quiet, and reserved person. She welcomed the idea she might have a half-brother in Europe. After many contacts a DNA test confirmed in 2010 that he had found his biological father. Paul travelled to the States to visit his father’s grave and his half-sisters. It felt like a new beginning in a second life. In retrospect he sees his childhood as closed because of the many question marks about his identity. He feels he should have started to work on these issues earlier. He missed ‘father talk’. Because of his search he became more aware that he lived in his childhood as a ‘Kriegskind’. He concludes (abbreviated):
“I was always silent, and I had for a long time not the courage to ask any questions. I feared meeting with humiliations which I had so often already experienced. About my identity one never spoke freely. Only because of my own questioning I had learned something. There was an emptiness in my heart and I did not feel understood. But this was all in the past now. My soul was healed again.”[:]

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