Nazi Germany invented a new definition of what it meant to be Jewish. They claimed that it was a racial identity that was based only on a person’s bloodlines. Even if someone belonged to a Christian church, he could still be considered Jewish through his parents or grandparents. This was the case for Peter Feigl. He was born into an Austrian Jewish family, but converted to the Catholic faith in 1937. His parents, who were not religious at all, hoped that this would spare him from persecution, but for Peter the conversion was sincere. Still, he was no safer after his conversion than he was beforehand.
Peter’s family fled from Austria after the Nazi takeover in 1938. After World War II began, they had to move several more times in an attempt to stay ahead of the German occupation. Eventually, they ended up in Vichy France. This was the free zone in the south of France that was not yet under German control. There, they suffered from two disadvantages. They were still in danger as Jews, but they were also treated badly because they were foreign refugees. In 1942, the government of Vichy France began rounding up foreign Jews for deportation. Peter’s parents sent him to a Catholic summer camp, most likely in the hope that he would be able to hide his Jewish ancestry. While he was temporarily safe, his parents were not. They were arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Drancy. Peter began his diary on the same day he found out about his parents’ misfortune.
Peter was desperately worried about his parents and hoped that he could help them. His best chance would be to emigrate to the United States. Once there, he could try to help get his parents out. An opportunity arose for him to get passage on a ship that was scheduled to leave on November 25th. For seven weeks he hoped and planned for his departure to safety. Unfortunately, the war intervened. The Allied invasion of North Africa on November 11th caused the port of Marseilles to be closed. Peter’s chance to escape was ruined. In his diary entry for November 24th, all he could write was, “Tomorrow is the day the ship was to sail. Good bye ship.”
Peter’s bitterness and despair was well justified. Although he was able to survive the Holocaust in hiding, his parents were deported to Auschwitz and murdered.
You may view a clip from Peter Feigl’s Holocaust testimony in this YouTube video.
October 15, 2015 at 6:00 PM
FORUM: The Jewish Refugee Crisis of the 1930’s: What Can We Learn to Meet the Needs of…
October 25, 2015 at 2:00 PM
Opening Reception: The Scroll of Remembrance
October 29, 2015 at 6:00 PM
Forum at the Rosen JCC: Eva Braun, Hitler’s Bride
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