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Two brothers reunited after more than 60 years

Ernst Wohlfahrt points to a photo of his first family reunion with his brother. Photo: Susanna Salonen/GRC Tracing Service
Ernst Wohlfahrt points to a photo of his first family reunion with his brother. Photo: Susanna Salonen/GRC Tracing Service

Ernst Wohlfahrt from Kiel only discovered he had a brother in his late 60. Until then, he had been an only child.

His mother had hinted that there was a family secret – something she only wanted to tell him “on her deathbed” – but she died in 2002 without giving it up.

In spring 2010, a cousin casually questioned the year Ernst Wohlfahrt was born. The cousin insisted that he was born in 1941, not 1943. She could clearly remember seeing a child sleeping in a cot in its parents’ bedroom – and was sure that it was in 1941, as she finished her schooling. Ernst Wohlfahrt was sure of his own birth year, but his cousin was persistent: his parents had already had a child in 1941. Consequently, Ernst Wohlfahrt began his research, involving dozens of phone calls, letters and call-backs, often late into the night.

What followed was two years of detective work in Germany and Pomerania, today’s Poland, where his parents lived at the time. After he did finally track down the name of his parents’ other child – his brother – Ernst Wohlfahrt turned to the GRC Tracing Service. He found his brother’s details in the Central Name Index (CNI); his name had been recorded in the index following a query.

It became now clear that Ernst Wohlfahrt’s mother was already heavily pregnant when she got married in summer 1941. Shortly after he was born, baby Hans was given up to a foster family who would later go on to adopt him. He grew up in East Germany, while Ernst Wohlfahrt remained in Schleswig-Holstein. The family never spoke of this chapter of their history again, at least not to Ernst Wohlfahrt.

In 2011, the GRC Tracing Service was finally able to put the brothers in touch. They have since stayed in contact and visit each other regularly in Kiel and Berlin – a happy ending for two brothers who knew nothing of each other for a lifetime.