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Forced adoption: a little-known tragedy of the GDR

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

This week in the Spiegel Online, journalist Annette Großbongardt sheds light on the little-known – but seemingly widespread - practice of forced adoption in the former GDR. In the article Großbongardt follows the lives of a handful of former east German families who were forcibly separated.

Architecture of the former East. Photo: Gerald Friedrich via Pixabay

Uwe Mai recalls the day in 1961 when the GDR took his parents away. After spending a short time in a nearby children’s home in Schönebeck, 6-year-old Mai was eventually adopted by a new, ideologically desirable family.

All adoptive parents were vigorously screened in order to ensure that this new family would facilitate the child’s socialist upbringing; alongside simply being a punishment for political dissidents in East Germany, forced adoptions also worked as a kind of ideological tool.

Uwe Mai, formerly Uwe Hampl, is but one example of the many children who were forcibly removed from the care of their ‘politically undesirable’ biological parents.

It was in the hope of answering some of these questions for people like Mai that Andreas Laake, originally from Leipzig and himself a victim of a forced adoption, founded the organisation “Stolen Children of the GDR”.

The organisation works to reunite parents with their lost children, and vice versa. The group is also putting pressure on the federal government to re-investigate these cases and try to right the “terrible wrong” that took place during these years.

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