Historians say 400,000 children fathered by Soviet and Western occupation troops in once divided Germany and Austria just after World War II need help in tracing their roots. The number is higher than initially assumed.
The historians called at a conference in Vienna on the governments of both countries to set up a joint contact center staffed by psychological specialists to assist "occupation children."
Now beyond 60 years of age, they had grown up shunned by neighbors, fatherless and inwardly lost because for decades the topic remained taboo.
Their German or Austrian mothers had either had relationships with Russian, British, French or US soldiers stationed in former occupation zones after 1945 or had probably been raped, say the researchers.
"These children wander confused and eventually find us historians. We can help them somewhat, but not competently. These children feel they are incomplete all their lives," said Dr. Silke Satjukow of Germany's Magdeburg University.
"One should not underestimate how psychologically important it is for a person to learn about his or her forbearers," Satjukov said.
Conference coordinator Dr. Barbara Stelz-Marx, who is based in Graz, said her colleagues had hundreds of inquiries from persons yearning to trace their origins. Military archives abroad were often unable to help.
Birth certificates of such children usually bore the entry "father unknown," said Satjukow.
Researchers had previously assumed that there were 68,000 such children in what was once occupied West Germany - before German unification in 1990 - and 8,000 in Austria.
Troops of many nations served in Germany after WWII
Satjukow said the current estimate was 100,000 for former West Germany, 300,000 in former East Germany, and 40,000 in Austria.
She said those affected, now aged between 60 and 70 years old, were often uninformed until the mother, on her deathbed, disclosed the father's identity, or when the child learned of his or her origins later by reading the mother's will and documents left behind.
Satjukow, who did her doctorate on the topic of former Russian occupation troops in Germany, recently said archives of former West Germany still held development reports on such children because their mothers had been under state guardianship.
So far, successful renewals of contacts with the long-lost father's family were seldom, Satjukow said. "In the most cases one is totally estranged."
ipj/mz (dpa, epd, kna)