War baby granted German identity
August 6, 2009 / BBC News
World War II may have ended in 1945, but for Daniel Rouxel, the personal battle went on much longer.
Born to a French mother and a German soldier father in occupied France, the retiree has finally been granted German citizenship, 66 years after his birth.
He was the first person to sign up for a new German scheme to recognise war children born in France.
Mr Rouxel picked up his official German Certificate from the country's consulate in Paris on Wednesday.
After years of humiliation, the so-called "son of a Boche" - a derogatory French term for a German soldier - finally feels he can enjoy life as a legitimate citizen.
"I'm German. I'm not a bastard any more," AFP quoted an emotional Mr Rouxel as saying outside the consulate.
Mr Rouxel's mother was working in a German airbase canteen in Brittany when she met the man who would become his father, Lieutenant Otto Ammon. They fell in love and Daniel Rouxel was born in 1943.
Lt Ammon was killed during the Allied liberation of France, and as Mr Rouxel's mother felt she could not raise her child alone, the boy was raised by his grandmother in a small Breton village.
The illegitimate son of a former enemy suffered years of torment at the hands of local youths, officials and even his own grandmother, who forced him to sleep in a henhouse.
At the age of just six he recalls bearing the brunt of a cruel public joke by the village mayor.
"Which one of you knows the difference between a swallow and a Boche?" Mr Rouxel remembers the mayor asking.
"I'll tell you. When the swallow makes its babies here in France, it takes them with it when it leaves. But the Boche - he leaves his behind."
Mr Rouxel - the "baby left behind" - was devastated.
"After that, I wept and wept," he later wrote of the account. "I was so ashamed that I ran and hid under a bridge for the whole night. I even thought of doing away with myself."
He was not the only "Boche baby" to be brought up with the shame. In all, it is estimated that as many as 200,000 French children were born to illicit liaisons during the German occupation between May 1940 and December 1944, though the figure is impossible to verify.
With neither France nor Germany wanting to publicly acknowledge the phenomenon after the war, the children were officially registered as "father unknown".
It was only when the two countries became European allies that talks were undertaken to recognise the war children's parentage, and in February Germany finally agreed to grant joint citizenship to those who wanted it.
His joint citizenship has not only brought Mr Rouxel closure after a years-long struggle; it has also made him feel, for the first time, like a fully-fledged human being.
"I'm a child like all the others," he says. "At last I've got the second half that I was so cruelly missing."