French Holocaust Personal Accounts: Peter Feigl's Diary


Figure 1.--

Peter while he was in hiding kept a diary. He began the diary on the day he learned that his parents had been arrested (August 27, 1942). There were two volumes. For many years only volume 2 survived. Then the first volume was discovered. It was sent on to Peter. Peterís diary is now held by the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Peterís diary tells the story from his view point. The diary he kept was a record of his separation from his parents. He hoped to be reunited with mother and father. The diary would tell them about him during their separation. The NAZIs did not kill Jews openly in France as they did in the East. Thus Peter and other Jewish children who managed to hide out hoped that they would be unified with their parents after the War. Here are extracts from Peter's diary which are written like a letter to his parents. Peter wrote in French.

1942


August 27: Thursday (1942)

It was before lunch that the director [Mme. Cavailhon] called me to her office and told me what had happened to you, my dearest! It was the "Secours Suisse" [Swiss Aid Organization] which wrote her that they had come for you. I thought I would go crazy. At the same time she gave me the last letter dated the 25th, together with the ration [coupons] and 5 francs [about $1.00]. I went out with the [Boy] Scouts. .. [Peter had joined the Boy Scouts while in Austria.]

August 28: Friday

I went to communion and I prayed for you my loved ones.

August 29: Saturday

The mailman was here. .. A postcard from you telling me that you are together at the "Camp du Vernet Quartier H" [Vernet Camp Section H] Barrack 661 [or 66/], Ariege [Ariege county]. I am happy and hope that you will be released in view of dad's poor health.

September 1: Thursday

At noon, Mrs. Cavailhon, the director of the children's home at Chateau Monteleone ordered me to bed and told me that 3 "gendarmes" or policemen want to pick me up. She has a medical certificate. At 2 o'clock, they come. But thanks to the certificate they leave me. [The camp director had made Peter eat a concoction of bread soaked in vinegar. It produced a high fever. Note that the authorities knew where Peter was. We are unsure just how they knew.]

1944


May 22: Monday (1944)

[The Quakerís hide Peter for 2 years until he and other children are able to flee to Switzerland. This did not happen until May 1944.] Leave at 6:30 am from Lyon Brotteaux to Viry via Culoz. Arrival at 12 pm. There, half of them don't get off [the train]. I jump off the running train. Two people called Ďpassersí (They help someone clandestinely cross national borders) were waiting. They told us to hide in a grass field. Cops go by. At 1 pm, the others who got off at St. Julien rejoin us. The column starts to move behind the passers. We are marching along a road. While no one could be seen on the road, at a sign from the passer we cross in double time a grassy field and then a plowed field. We see the railroad track. The barbed wires have already been cut. No one on the tracks. We go through at a gallop. [In this excerpt Peter continues to relate his escape to Switzerland. Then we enter high grasses and small woods. There the 2 passers get lost; we run around in circles 3 times then they find the way again. There is a young kid who's screaming and the passers are upset. We go through woods. We see the border. No Krauts, no French. He makes us lie flat on the ground. It rained and it's not pleasant. My feet are soaking wet. They signal us. On the run we get nearer to the barbed wires. We throw our back packs over the fence and we cross wherever feasible. A Swiss guard is watching us. We cross at Sorral II. We are well received. An interrogation (the first one) started. I pull out my real I.D. papers which had been sewn into my jacket. [Peter goes to Geneva.] A truck came to pick us up around 3 pm. It drove us to Geneva to the "triage" camp of Claparede. Everybody along the road waves to us. There the interrogations start. We eat well. At 11 pm I take a shower and they inspect our scalp for lice. Then I sleep soundly in a free country.

May 24: Wednesday

I went to see the commanding officer. He asked me questions.

May 25-30: Thursday to Tuesday

I wrote to Mr. Gersonde [a business associate of my father who had given me his name earlier]. Yesterday I got 2 francs 50 [cents] plus a collection that was taken up for me. I received my bank account today. [Fortunately for Peter having a Swiss family to contact saved him from being repatriated to France.

June 7: Tuesday

[Peter went to stay with his fatherís Swiss business associate. The man was called Gersonde who lived in Bern. Unfortunately Peter found it very hard to resume living a normal life. He was traumatized by all that had happened to him.] His diary for Tuesday June 7th simply says, "Arrived Bern 26 6 44 1:30 pm." His secret clandestine life was over and now he could be his real self again.







HBC








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