Peter Feigel: September 20, 1942

Peter Feigl was thirteen years old when he began keeping his diary. His experiences show how the events of the Holocaust unfolded differently for many of its victims. They also shows how this history is often more complicated than it seems.

Peter was born in Germany in 1929. His parents were Austrian citizens, but the family moved several times due to his father’s successful business. By the time he was a teenager, he had lived in Berlin, Prague, and Vienna. His parents were Jews, but they did not practice the Jewish religion at all. Peter grew up in a completely secular home. In 1937, his parents had him baptized into the Catholic Church because they thought it might help him to avoid persecution. Although Peter considered himself to be a Christian, this made no difference to the Nazis. According to Nazi racial policies, Peter was a Jew regardless of his beliefs.

When Nazi Germany took over Austria in 1938, Peter’s family fled. They went first to Belgium and finally to France. It was difficult to find a safe haven anywhere. They even spent six terrible weeks interned in Gurs, a concentration camp run by the French government. The Feigls were sent there because they were foreign refugees. It was after his release from Gurs that Peter began keeping his diary.

Peter found temporary safety at a Catholic summer camp, but his parents could not stay there with him. His diary reflected the pain and fear he felt at being separated from his family. He wanted to be with them, but he knew that they were safer apart. On September 20, 1942, he wrote, “_On one hand, I wish I could be with you, on the other hand no. If only I knew where you are. What is happening to you?_” There were many twists yet to come in Peter’s story, but he eventually survived the Holocaust. Unfortunately, his parents did not.

You can see an excerpt of an interview with Peter talking about his Holocaust experiences on YouTube.

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