In a narrow, half-timbered house in the upper Palatinate, some time after the end of the war, is a little girl next to his grandmother in bed. It is about five, six years old. In the room there are two simple wooden beds, a small table, a Cabinet. And although both still do not sleep, there is an eerie silence. As on so many nights, the small Eleonore S. * the thought torments: “Why didn’t the other kids have a family and I? Why can’t I live with my mother? Why are there no pictures of my father? Why no one talks about him?”

questions to which you don’t get answers, because she dares once again, the words out loud. Too much cold, the woman radiates next to her. The dark clothes she wears, her hair, which she binds always to a strict set of nodes together, everything about her rejection signals. “You never had a loving word for me, we have not actually spoken at all to each other,” recalls Eleanor today, almost 70 years later.

Up to two million rapes

and the mother comes to visit in the small village. Then Eleanor takes all her courage and asks for her father – again and again they tried it, but the mother usually only the head and begins to cry. The few droughts and vague, the Eleonore your forces after a tedious, reveal only so much, that he was a soldier, a French Crew. The mother, still almost a girl, alone, lost in a group of French soldiers crowded Inn. “I had Hunger” is one of the few sentences that gives your daughter the price. Then she stops to tell, mired in an agonizing Silence, and in tears.


One of the few images that Eleonore, together with her mother


show The Rest of have to figure Eleonore over the years together. For your generation seems to be a kind of sexual violence have been. The word rape, and it is, just as the Generation of the mother or the grandmother. At the time you tried to make the Dire, with phrases like “Are you taken?” a harmless sound. The transcription was less degrading, humiliating, less down. So understandable it may be that the mother and grandmother wegschoben the events of, and not repressed, her daughter and granddaughter Eleanor, you helped with that. The research about how the subsequent generations suffer from the consequences of the experiences of their parents, has only just begun timidly. In the past few years has grown among psychologists, the understanding of the importance of his own family’s history for the development of each Individual. A war overshadowed the lives of those directly Affected, but also the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

long past suffering and the effect, eats away at the souls of the people, it can have through the generations, and even after decades of drastic effects. This emotional heritage is given not only more about parenting styles and attachment patterns, but – amazingly – also about changes in the genes of the parents to the offspring, so the latest findings of the researchers.

it is Estimated that up to two million rapes

Eleonore is eventually conceived at the beginning of may 1945, immediately after the invasion of the French in the anarchy of the first occupation months at the end of the war, as sexual Assault is a mass phenomenon were. It happened in broad daylight on the field or in dark cellars. It happened at night, in the dark doorways, in army jeeps, while seemingly harmless dance events, and in the hidden corners of widely ramified factory halls. How many women were in Germany after the war, to the victims of sexual violence, has never been exactly determined. The estimates range from 800,000 up to two million rapes. And around one in every 100. Indeed, a child was born.

it was not so, that only Soviet soldiers were hunting the German women: soldiers of the Western allies were the perpetrators. “We have from the sexual violence of the victorious armies at the end of the Second world war against German civilians a very one-sided picture,” says the historian Miriam Gebhardt, a Professor at the University of Konstanz. In the centre of the collective memory of the crimes of the Red army were. Their revenge was thirst of Hitler at the end of the war, and of the bright painted colors, to summon the will of the population. But guilty have powers all four victory.

Over the generations, continued

Eleanor written in February 1946 to the world, nine months after the invasion of the French. An illegitimate child is born in their home village, but in the hospital the next bigger city. From there you will be brought directly to the grandmother. In those days it was unthinkable that a child grows up with his unmarried mother. The public morality would have allowed it to happen hardly.

Quite apart from the fact that the mother had already had no time. You had to earn a living for herself and her child – an office job in the French occupation administration is the Only thing that she gets. Where else is a “French find-love” work? As Eleonore, many of the children in the post-war period, were made mainly alone. Their mothers were busy with the Clearing away of the rubble in the country and in your own life. The time and leisure to attend to the psychological needs of the adolescent, was hardly.

Today, there is a very different understanding of what can cause of the war in the child’s soul that children are at the mercy of the war and its consequences are particularly vulnerable. At the time it was rather on the idea that children would be just fine with everything and even debris fields could turn into playgrounds.

The trauma research as a whole is a relatively new scientific discipline. For the first time in 1980, post-traumatic stress disorder is recognized as a real illness in psychiatry. Accordingly, the manageable, the number of studies about the psychological long-term consequences of the Second world war in Germany.

scientists at the University of Leipzig, examined in 2013 the psycho-social impact of the crew’s children. The researchers found in the Affected compared to the rest of the population, above-average level of attachment disorders and depression, as well as the tendency to social withdrawal. Many of the biographies were marked by failed relationships and marriages. “The study results make it clear that children of war represent a high-risk group, not only in the Nachkriegsdeutschland, but in every armed conflict,” sums up the Leipzig study, Heide Glaesmer. And is particularly distressing that the researchers know now, is if the experience is not spoken, when dark family secrets to be written about for generations.

Impaired sexuality

occupation children was missing most-all Knowledge of the father. Unlike the sons and daughters of fallen soldiers who had, at least emotionally, a figure you could hold on to, a man whose photo were perhaps on the wall over the dining table hung from the letters in dresser drawers, of the mother or grandmother proud and in awe told.

Eleanor’s mother, however, wanted to erase the painful procreation and everything that went with it, just from your memory. “Understandable,” says Eleonore today. She sits in her apartment and leafing through old family albums. To see your mother with a new man, a Frenchman, the work has met, and two small children. Eleonore is not usually in the pictures – you could even after marriage the mother not to her, but came to a boarding school.

Until today, Eleonore between understanding of the Situation of the mother and the indignation with which grace being denied their first daughter varies. “Your new neighbors and friends, she didn’t tell of of my existence or something.”

Eleanor with 19 years of learns during a trip to your future husband know, he appears to her as a rescue, as the proverbial knight on top of the white horse. That he can muster no heat and no understanding for the emotionally neglected daughter of an abused mother, is not clear. They marry quickly. Eleanor’s mother has no objections, warns you before the hasty wedding. On the contrary, she seems to be glad that there is one who takes her illegitimate daughter without a dowry, and you have your own burden freed.

How many marriages in the 60s and 70s, it is rather a community of purpose is a love marriage. Eleanor toils around the clock. The Couple builds a house, gets a daughter. However, the sexuality between Eleonore and her husband is disturbed. This is typical for many women with this in the past.

A life almost without a father

“When he came into the bedroom, has pulled at me all together. For me, love and sexuality were a physical Problem.” In addition, the two can not speak, you have never learned. The Couple estranged, a divorce. “And for my daughter, back to my story, a life, almost without the father repeated,” says Eleonore.

The emotional heritage is spoken further about the way of reminders or silence. But that is only the obvious part. In fact, trauma seem to be the genetic material to etch, seem to be family stories about our cells reproduce. Epigenetics of this fresh branch of biology called. It is a research direction, their representatives, and to understand why and how genes are activated or muted.

scientists led by Isabelle Mansuy, Professor at ETH Zurich have demonstrated in the year 2018, these effects in mice. To exclude the possibility that the young animals of their traumatized ancestors behavior simply fail to take, brought unloaded surrogate mothers, the mice babies to the world and attracted to you. However, the animals suffered from the consequences of the trauma of their genetic parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. “We have investigated four generations, and are currently testing the fifth,” says Mansuy. “The results are always the same. Many of the epigenetic changes in the first Generation and the effects of which are still in the following generations undetectable.”

“war children”

and Then suffered trauma, the genetic footprint once, apparently very deep. The changes are limited, apparently, not only on the genetic material of brain cells. Even in the blood, Egg and sperm cells were able to demonstrate, the researchers changes.

Currently, Mansuy analyzed groups of children and adults with traumatic experiences. Their findings, comparing them with the observations of control groups, which are raised in stable relationships. So far, the results seem to confirm the assumption that in mice and humans alike post-traumatic setting tables Changes in the cell structure. Especially dealing with Stress seems to be Affected worse.

In the case of Eleanor, it has taken a long time, until you are fully aware of what is the legacy you carry with you. Until the mid-50, she was always a strong, resolute woman. She worked 60 hours a week, often more, to yourself and your daughter through. At some point, but that was the end. Burnout, Depression, nothing was more. In this Phase, you started, about yourself and your life to think about. “All of a sudden everything came up what I had Packed away over the years, and displaced,” she says. She started therapy, learned to speak about their experiences – with their daughter, Jacqueline*. It was like a salvation.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the science turns to the psychological consequences of war stronger, since the Generation of “war children” has come into the phase of life, in the biographical drawing up a balance sheet. The children of the raped women have today, your professional life, have brought up children and grandchildren get. The new insights can help to identify the aftermath of the Second world war as such.

vicious circle

Also, Eleanor’s daughter, Jacqueline, is a grown-up now. They emigrated to Australia. After school, they broke up for a language course abroad and never returned. A real relationship with her grandmother has developed Jacqueline never, but the relationship between mother and daughter is for years always close. “I fought like a lion,” says Eleanor, “just because I know how bad it is, if one is left by the mother in the lurch. I wanted to break this vicious circle.” A few years ago Jacqueline had a abdomen surgery. Your own children will never get. Your emotional heritage will not be more.

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