Two sisters who always suspected their dad had fathered a secret daughter during the Second World War left BBC viewers in tears as they finally met their half-sibling.
Last night’s emotional episode of DNA Family Secrets saw Janet Dabbs, 62, and Liz George, from Bath, search for their half-sister after hearing rumours of a secret baby in their childhood.
Their late father was a British prisoner of war during World War Two and fathered a child in Austria, likely with a local woman whom he met while working on nearby land.
After testing their DNA, the sisters discovered a paternal match with a 76-year-old Austrian woman named Renate – who said she had wanted to know who her father was for her entire life.
Viewers were left ‘blubbering’ after watching their touching reunion, where Renate said that she felt her two half-sisters were the beginning of a ‘new family’.
Last night’s emotional episode of DNA Family Secrets saw Janet Dabbs, 62, (left) and Liz George (right), from Bath, meet their 76-year-old half-sibling Renate (middle) for the first time
Renate (pictured as a child) who was born in Austria in early 1946 to Liz and Janet’s father and an Austrian woman he met on the land while in a British prisoner of war camp
Janet first heard rumours of a secret daughter from one of her parents’ friends when she was just nine – however never questioned her mother or father about her theory.
‘My dad was a soldier in World War Two and he was a prisoner of war in Austria,’ she explained. ‘When I was about nine or ten, my mum and dad had some friends round.
‘They’re just chatting and one of the guests said “What’s this Danny I hear you have a daughter in Austria”.
‘My ears just kind of prick up and I said, “What? Wow, really?” and from what I remember these people were kind of ejected from the house
‘I think I must have gone upstairs to tell my sister Elizabeth this story. I never mentioned it to either of my parents.’
Their late father was a British prisoner of war during World War Two and fathered a child in Austria, likely with a local woman who me met while working on nearby land
When her mother was in her eighties Janet decided to ask her about the child, determined to discover whether she had a half sibling before her mum passed away.
How British soldiers found themselves imprisoned in prisoner of war camps during WWII
Allied forces who were captured by Nazis were imprisoned in prisoner of war camps, or POW camps.
Camps existed throughout the Third Reich during the Second World War – including in Hitler’s homeland of Austria.
The camps held British, American, French, Polish and Soviet military personnel.
The camps rarely upheld to terms set out in the Geneva Convention of 1929 – which was signed and agreed to by Germany.
Conditions were poor, with little food or sanitation and inmates were forced to carry out hard labour.
Over 170,000 British prisoners of war were taken by German and Italian forces during the Second World War.
She said: ‘I think I must have gone back to being that little girl again and she immediately went quite rigid and really didn’t want to discuss it at all. That to me was enough confirmation it was true. She didn’t deny it.’
Janet continued: ‘I didn’t think my parents were particularly secretive. My dad was always quite open, he used to talk about his experiences in the past, his experiences in the war.
‘He used to entertain us with different stories but never touched on the fact he had a child in Austria.’
Neither Janet or Liz pushed their mother on the subject, with Janet adding: ‘You knew you weren’t supposed to know, so you kind of lived with that secret.’
Liz added: ‘The narrative Janet and I have developed has come from the black and white stories told by our father and they were coloured in in our imaginations.
‘Is it just our childhood fantasy that’s driving this forward? This is something Janet thought she heard….But did she really hear it? Where is the truth in all of this?’
The pair met with Professor Turi King, a Professor of Public Engagement and Genetics at the University of Leicester, who warned the sisters that it was unlikely they would find anything.
She said: ‘There were 170,000 British soldiers taken as prisoners of war by the Germans and the Italians during World War Two.
‘It’s a huge population in size, so it’s not surprising you don’t have information. What I do have to say is I’m concerned this is quite a long shot.’
As they waited for the results of their DNA test, Liz reflected on her late father’s life, speculating that as his health declined towards the end of his life he may have started to feel a sense of ‘regret’.
They explained that Janet first heard rumours of a secret daughter from one of her parents’ friends when she was just nine – however never questioned her mother or father about her theory
The pair met with Professor Turi King, a Professor of Public Engagement and Genetics at the University of Leicester, who warned the sisters that it wa unlikely they would find anything
‘I think he did decline and I wonder whether what he had experienced in his past life was beginning to play on his mind or, that actually he could have he should have and there was an element of regret there,’ she said.
Despite their slim chances, Professor King was able to find a match in Renate, whose daughter was on a DNA database.
She told the sisters: ‘DNA was really the only way we could try and answer this question.
‘I really felt this was going to be a long shot. I am so pleased to tell you, I was totally wrong.
Despite their slim chances, the pair were told Professor King was able to find a match in Renate, whose daughter was on a DNA database
Renate was delighted by the news of two sisters, sharing a video message from Austria with her daughter Claudia in which she shared her excitement about meeting the pair
‘I uploaded your DNA to one of the databases and immediately I could see you had a half-sister.’
The sisters discovered they had a relation called Renate who was born in Austria in early 1946.
‘That is so amazing, said Janet. ‘That is wonderful. So we do have a big sister. It would be so lovely if someone was looking for us as well’.
Renate was delighted by the news of two sisters, sharing a video message from Austria with her daughter Claudia in which she shared her excitement about meeting the pair.
After a lifetime apart, the three sisters were finally reunited in an emotional meeting that took place in Austria, with the trio immediately sharing a warm embrace upon meeting
An emotional Renate was seen touching her sisters’ faces before saying she was ‘so happy’ and thought the women were ‘so lovely’
She said: ‘I am very happy to learn that you exist and I have so much joy and a few tears.
‘I always wanted to know my whole life where I’m from and who my father is. I am very curious about my new family.’
After a lifetime apart, the three sisters were finally reunited in an emotional meeting that took place in Austria, with the trio immediately sharing a warm embrace upon meeting.
An emotional Renate was seen touching her sisters’ faces before saying: ‘I am so happy. So lovely’.
Viewers were moved to tears after watching the programme, with one teasing the show should come with a ’tissue warning’
‘You have been in our hearts and in our minds for 50 years, you are your fathers daughter’, replied Janet.
After Renate was shown a photograph of their father, she said: ‘This photo means so much to me and I am emotionally touched because this is my father.
‘This is my dad. This is the beginning of a new family’.
Viewers were moved to tears after watching the programme, with one teasing the show should come with a ’tissue warning’.
One wrote: ‘What a great programme #DNAFamilySecrets is. Might have made my eyes a bit leaky, but such an uplifting and fascinating watch. So pleased for all involved in tonight’s episode.’
Meanwhile another added: ‘Great to have #DNAFamilySecrets back, an interesting and heartfelt episode.’
A third penned: ‘Jeez! What a way to start #DNAFamilySecrets catching up today, it should come with a tissue warning.’