From the age of eight years-old, Peter Feigl was a practicing member of the Catholic faith. He had been born into a completely secular Jewish family, but was not raised with any Jewish identity at all. In fact, his parents decided to have him baptized in the mistaken idea that this might protect him from persecution at the hands of the Nazis. Unfortunately for Peter, the Nazis did not care about his beliefs. To them, he was a Jew by race. Conversion did not spare him from this classification.
In their ongoing struggle to protect their son, Peter’s parents, now living as refugees in France, managed to secure a spot for him at a Catholic summer camp. The need to get away was urgent, because roundups of foreign Jews had already begun. In fact, while he was at the camp, Peter received word that his parents had been taken into custody. He began writing his diary in hopes of being able to send it by mail to his parents, wherever they would eventually surface. His very first entry read, “Belonging to FEIGL, Pierre, August 27, 1942. This diary is written for my parents in the hope that it will reach them both in good health.”
Peter wrote most of his diary entries in his first volume as if he was writing letters to his parents. He addressed them personally and his love and concern for them was readily apparent. He wrote movingly about the moment he found out about their arrest. “It was before lunch that the [summer camp] directress, returning from Condom, called me to her office and told me what had happened to you, my dearest! It was the Sec. Suisse [Swiss Aid Organization] which wrote to her that they had come for you. I thought I would go mad. At the same time she gave me the letter dated the twenty-fifth, together with the ration [coupons] and five francs.” Peter’s diary entry for August 27th concluded, “I thought about you a great deal while waiting to hear from you.” The next day he wrote, “I went to communion and I prayed for you, my loved ones.”
The closeness shared by this loving family was obvious. Facing imminent arrest, Peter’s parents still wrote to him and tried to guarantee his support. On his side, Peter tried to keep in touch, even if he could only write in his diary until he found out his parents new location. Over the course of the next few weeks, Peter’s parents were able to send a few postcards. By the middle of September, he found out that his parents had been interned in a camp near Paris known as Drancy.
Tragically, Peter never heard from his parents again. He didn’t know it at the time, but his parents were only in Drancy for a few days. By the time he found out that they were there, they had already been deported to Auschwitz where they were probably murdered upon arrival.
You may read excerpts from Peter Feigl’s diary in , edited by Alexandra Zapruder.
You may learn more about the history of the Drancy internment camp here.
You may listen to an excerpt of an interview with Peter Feigl here. This interview was uploaded to YouTube from the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education.
April 19, 2015 at 4:00 PM
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