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75-Year-Old Woman Finds Out Her Father Served With Enemy Forces During WWII After Being Told He Was A French Soldier

PA Media - BBC Inside Out South West

Pauline Botting is connecting with her estranged family for the first time after realizing that her father fought in World War II.

Botting was born on the island of Jersey in the U.K. in 1944 when her father was part of the German forces occupying the Channel Islands.


Paul Klimaszewski, her father, was posted to France before she was born and a blank space was left in the "father" section of her birth certificate.

Botting said she only discovered she was "illegitimate" when she applied for a passport at the age of 18.

Her mother, Olive Le Brun, who died 15 years ago, told her that her father had been a French soldier who had died.

A young Pauline Botting with her mother Olive Le BrunA young Pauline Botting with her mother Olive Le Brun (BBC Inside Out South West/PA)

Klimaszewski was believed to have been a Polish conscript.

"Everyone wants to know where they come from," Botting told BBC.

"I think it's terrible for people to die and take secrets with them to their grave. I'd like to know: Did he die? Did he make a new life?"

"To get to 75 and know nothing is very sad. I've got friends who have known me 40 years and they do not know anything about this. I know it wasn't my fault, I was just born, but you carry that shame."

A photograph of Klimaszewski was discovered in the possessions of Botting's late maternal grandfather during the 1970s.

Pauline Botting (right) with her cousin Gladys VautierPauline Botting (right) with her cousin Gladys Vautier (BBC Inside Out South West/PA)

Klimaszewski was one of thousands of German troops stationed in the Channel Islands in the 1940s, until liberation in 1945.

Women who spent time with the soldiers were shunned.

"The shame of being illegitimate 75 years ago is horrendous, but double on top of it was being the child of a member of the occupation," Botting said.

In a BBC documentary, Botting finally speaks to estranged family members who knew her father. She is told that he was an assistant to an officer stationed at the Le Brun family's house.

Her cousin Gladys Vautier was a child when Le Brun fell in love with Klimaszewski. She described him as "a very kind person, very gentle."

"I think he got on well with the family," Vautier said. "I understand how her mother could have fallen in love with this German soldier."

Follow the BBC's Inside Out South here.