First French 'Son of a Boche' gets German citizenship

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After a lifetime of humiliation at the hands of a population ashamed of France's wartime occupation, the 66-year-old finally has a legitimate identity by becoming a dual French-German national.

Paris -- More than six decades after his birth, the son of a French mother and a German Wehrmacht officer, retiree Daniel Rouxel was on Wednesday at last granted German citizenship and a measure of dignity.

After a lifetime of humiliation at the hands of a population ashamed of France's wartime occupation, the 66-year-old "Son of a Boche" feels that by becoming a dual French-German national he finally has a legitimate identity.

"I'm German. I'm not a bastard any more. I'm a child like all the others. At last I've got the second half that I was so cruelly missing," he said, blinking back tears after leaving the German consulate in Paris.

Rouxel was born in Paris in 1943 during the World War II occupation, when his mother was working in the canteen of the German airbase in the Brittany town of Pleurtuit where his father, Lieutenant Otto Ammon, was stationed.

Ammon was killed during the Allied liberation of France and after the war, when his mother could no longer cope with raising him, Rouxel was taken on by his grandmother and moved to a small and unwelcoming Breton village.

"I'm the child born of a love made impossible by war," he said, in a recent account of his life written in support of his citizenship bid.

As the illegitimate son of the former enemy, Rouxel was a figure of hate, tormented by local youths, often forced by his own grandmother to sleep in a henhouse and publicly mocked by local officials.

He still remembers the day the deputy mayor of the town publicly singled him out as the villagers left church and asked "What's the difference between a swallow and a Boche?" -- an abusive term for Germans.

"When a swallow has kids in France and then flies off, it takes its 
children with it," the official said, according to Rouxel. "I cried a lot. I was only six years old and already I wanted to kill myself," he said.

Neither German nor French officials in the period after the war wanted to address the issue of children born to occupying troops, who might number up to 200,000 according to writers Jean-Paul Picaper and Ludwig Norz.

Officially registered as "father unknown" they have been subjected to years of ostracism and persecution, and the countries -- now close allies -- recently reached an agreement to recognise the children's parentage.

Germany agreed on 19 February to grant joint citizenship to those war children who want it, and Rouxel -- who has been a vocal representative of the group, even though he cannot speak German -- was the first to sign up.

In April 2008, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner made a speech in Berlin in which he regretted that both governments had "remained deaf to 

the distress of the innocent victims of a conflict they had no part in."
Since then, lawyers and officials from both sides of the Rhine have ironed out the remaining legal hurdles for the survivors to take German nationality.

Today it is thought that only a few dozen will do so, in most cases those who have managed to track down surviving German relatives and build ties with them rather than those who lost touch in the chaos of war.

Rouxel was among those who, after a difficult upbringing in a France that wanted to forget the war and reject his heritage, managed to make contact with his father's relatives.

"When I was two he held me in his arms. He fed me from the bottle and wrote to his family, before he was killed, to tell them he had a child in France," he said, in his account of his life.

"His family wanted to do what was needed to raise me in Germany, but my mother refused. When I was 12, I met my German family. I was warmly received, our relations are excellent," he said.

The French foreign ministry officially welcomed the German consulate's award of citizenship.

AFP / Expatica

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