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Holocaust Diaries


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Diary of Peter Feigl

Feigl, Peter Diary 1942
US Holocaust Memorial Museum; Gift of Peter Feigl

In the late summer of 1942, Peter Feigl started keeping a diary at a Catholic-run summer camp in the town of Condom, in Vichy France. This was a critical period in the history of Jews in France. The country was defeated and divided, and Jews were subject to discriminatory laws and regulations in both the German-occupied north and the southern "Free Zone" run by the French collaborationist government. Then, in the summer of 1942, the French police started hunting down "foreign Jews" in both zones; in Paris alone, some 13,000 Jews were rounded up in July and eventually deported, via Drancy, to their deaths in Auschwitz.1 This was part of the larger German push to deport hundreds of thousands of Jews from places like Paris, Amsterdam and the Warsaw ghetto to the killing centers in German-occupied Eastern Europe.

Feigl was a thirteen-old refugee from a middle-class Austrian Jewish family. Originally from Vienna, Peter's parents Ernst and Agnes Feigl moved to Berlin after World War I, where Ernst had an engineering business. Peter Klaus Feigl was born in the German capital in 1929. The family moved to Prague and then back to Vienna in the second half of the 1930s. Sometime during this period, Peter was baptized as a Catholic.2 Fleeing the advancing Nazis, the family left Austria for Belgium, where Ernst was arrested because of his German passport and sent to the Caen prison camp in France. After Belgium was invaded, Agnes, Peter and his sister fled to France. Soon enough they found themselves subject to discriminatory antisemitic laws. As Jews and foreigners they were doubly vulnerable, especially in France, where the distinction between "native" and "foreign" Jews went beyond the technical status of citizenship, and could extend for generations after a family settled in France.

The Feigls eventually settled in the town of Auch, in Vichy France, where they led a precarious existence until the summer of 1942. As Jews—especially "foreign" Jews—started being systematically targeted, rounded up across France and taken to transit camps that summer, Peter's parents managed to enroll their son in a summer camp run by a Catholic organization in Condom. Soon afterwards, the parents were arrested by the Vichy authorities and deported to Auschwitz about a month later, where they were murdered.

As in the case of the eleven-year-old Đura Rajs, Peter took to writing in response to the traumatic event he had just experienced. His parents were initially taken to the internment camp at Le Vernet, and the diary that Peter started keeping was written in second person plural and addressed to his parents. Peter saw the diary as a way to maintain ties with his family, tragically severed by the cruel events of the summer. Much more than merely documenting his daily life—for many days, in fact, the entries merely note that nothing happened, or that he spent the day in bed—it is a testament to the boy’s fears, sadness, and despair in the light of the disappearance of his parents.3

Peter Feigl also spoke of his diary years later. In 1997, he was interviewed for the Shoah Foundation project.

For a history of the Holocaust in France, see Renée Poznanski, Jews in France During World War II, trans. Nathan Bracher (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2001).

On the history of Jewish conversion in the modern period see Todd M. Endelman, Jewish Apostasy in the Modern World (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1987).

Peter Feigl survived the war; his parents were murdered in Auschwitz. For more extensive biographical information and the description of the diary, see Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002).

Peter refers to this woman first as the directress, then as Madame C., then with her full name, Madame Cavailhon.

"Swiss Rescue," a humanitarian organization.

Camp du Vernet, his parents' first location, was about 100 miles distant from Peter in Condom. Limoges is about 200 miles away. 

Sub-prefecture: the administrative headquarters for a French arrondissement or district. 

Drancy, the transit camp in a northern district of Paris. 

The American Friends Service Committee, an aid organization of Quakers in the United States, organized aid for refugees throughout Europe and organized the transfer of Jewish children from southern France to the United States. This suggests that the Quakers were already working to move Peter to the United States, and he hopes his parents will be able to join him there.

Villages in the district of Haute-Loire took in thousands of refugees during the war. The residents of the area were primarily Huguenots and Protestants who had faced discrimination in Catholic France and resisted the Vichy government.

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This journal was written for my parents in the hope that it will reach both of them in good health. Their son: Pierre Feigl. Condom, August 27, 1942

 

My Journal

beginning on

 

Thursday, August 27

Mr. Weissmann had spoken to me about it. It was before lunch that the directress, coming back from Condom, called me to her office and told me what had happened to you, my dears!1 It was the Secours Suisse2 that wrote him that they had come looking for you. I thought I would go mad. At the same time she gave me the last letter dated the twenty-fifth, with the ration coupons and 5 francs. Right away I wrote the Sternefelds, asking them to look after you, our belongings, me. I went out with the Scouts. Later I came back and went to look for the milk. I thought a lot about you while waiting for your news.

 

Friday, 28

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

 

Saturday, August 29

The postman came. I run to ask if there is something for me. Praise the Lord. A postcard from you, telling me that you are together at the Camp du Vernet, Quartier H, Baraque 66/ Ariège. I am happy and hope that you will be released in view of Papa’s poor health. The directress also received a postcard.

 

Sunday, 30

I am a little ill.

 

Monday, 31

I have gone to bed.

 

Tuesday, September 1

Another month begins. I am waiting to hear from you. Nothing for me. At noon, Madame C., the directress, orders me to bed and tells me that they (3 policemen) are coming to look for me. She has a [medical] certificate. At 2 o'clock, they come. But thanks to the certificate, they leave me here.

 

Wednesday, 2

I’m in bed. Nothing from you.

 

Thursday, 3

I’m anxious. Madame C. received a letter with my baptismal certificate and three ration coupons for shoes and nothing else. Sender: A. Feigl — Limoges and addressed to: Chateau Montéléone, Condom/Gers, written in great haste (the postmark is from the 1st or 2nd, from Limoges).3 I'm worried. I'm afraid that you have left. I am still in bed. I fear for you; my good parents.

 

Friday, 4

Still nothing from you. I received a nice letter from Willie H., who has the key to the room and who is taking care of everything. Still in bed. Madame Cavailhon was at the Sub-Prefecture on my account.4 I am waiting, I am hoping.

 

Saturday, 5

I am in bed. Finally I receive your second postcard dated the 31st. I recall the strange letter of the 3rd. But let's not lose heart. I also received a very nice letter from Charles because I had also written to him.

 

Sunday, 6

Nothing. I am in bed.

 

Monday, 7

Nothing from you. Still in bed. Another letter from Charles, who was kind enough to send me 100 francs.

 

Tuesday, September 8

I am in bed. Nothing from you. I think of you often.

 

Wednesday, 9

I get up a little. They are taking care of me and spoil me a lot. I don't know how to thank Madame Cavailhon.

 

Thursday, 10

Nothing from you. I receive a card from Lex, who is already in Madrid. He's lucky. I have written a card to you and another to Charles.

 

Friday, 11

Still nothing. I wait.

 

Saturday, 12

I receive a card from Charles. I have written you a card, as you requested, every other day. But the directress tells me that she has received a letter from a Jewish aid organization stating that you are in an occupied zone and that you want news about me. I am afraid for [you]. I won't send the card. It's useless. I cried tonight. Who knows where they have taken you?

 

Sunday, 13

I receive a visit from Madame Lapper. She tells me that you left (for Transi near Paris).5 She is nice and says she stayed by your side. She had brought me three treats and the address of Siegmund. I must be brave and wait. I think of you a lot.

 

Monday, 14

Willie came to see me at noon. He told me that he has the key. He brought me a package, among other things, the cable-car, the watch, the 4-color pencil, and Papa's cigarette case. He received 300 francs from Dr. Koen and sold the animals. He brought me, all told, 1,003.80 francs. He is taking care of everything and I trust him. He was pale and thin. The director showed him your letter, which she had just received, forwarded by the Quakers.6 I hope, nonetheless, that you will leave with me. Perhaps you'll still be set free? She also said that I have chances to leave. She has, I believe, received a letter from Charles.

 

Tuesday, 15

Nothing. I am always waiting.

 

Wednesday, September 16

Nothing. I have been here for two months already. Some other children came today. I hope that you are in good health?

 

Thursday, 17

Madame Cavailhon received a telegram this morning from Vichy, saying that everything had been arranged for me and for all those in the same circumstances as mine. We are happy, she and I.

 

Friday, 18

Nothing. This evening, during the meal, I was sent to bed. The police again. The telegram is of no interest to them. They want an official document or at least a [medical] certificate within 48 hours, saying that I cannot be moved yet. I was afraid and thought about you. They left again.

 

Saturday, 19

Nothing. No news. I organized a party with the older children for the monitors to thank them for what they do for us. It was good (plays, jokes, good things, etc.) I thought about you a lot.

 

Sunday, 20

Nothing. I haven’t been able to go out yet. On the one hand, I would like to be with you. On the other hand, no. If I only knew where you are. What you are doing. And Papa, his health.

 

Monday, 21

I'm sad and weary. During the rest hour Mme Cavailhon calls me. She has received a letter asking if she wants to send children to a very good school in Haute-Loire at an altitude of 1,000 meters.7 She chose me and another boy. I could go there, but she is afraid that perhaps I wouldn't be safe there (police). Oh, what a life? ... I still have hope. I also received a card from Lex. If I could go to this school, I would be very happy. I would work hard to please you. Lex is in Portugal. Those who remained in France are going to rejoin him on the 30th in Portugal.

 

Tuesday, September 22

Nothing. I think of you a lot.

 

Wednesday, 23

I have received a letter from Charles. He is very nice and takes care of me.

 

Thursday, 24

I cried a lot while thinking of you. Mlle Mariette of the S.S. [Secours Suisse] came to see me. She is going to send me all my belongings. Mme Cavailhon told me in front of her that it was only a matter of weeks and that I would be leaving for America on the first ship (in October). I would have wanted to bring you along. But once I'm there, I would be safe and I could have you come.

 

Friday, 25

A convoy left this morning for Aix with Mme Cavailhon. She is going to bring back children in my situation. The two big boys, Georges and Roger, whom my dear mama knew, left with the convoy. They picked me up in the bus when I came.

 

Saturday, 26

Willie sent me stamps and photos. Unfortunately, not yours. When will I hear from you?

 

Sunday, 27

Nothing. I haven't been out yet. I must wait for Mme Cavailhon to come back from Marseille. She left with the convoy.

 

Monday, 28

I received a letter from Willie. He is going to send me my things by the bus. It's been cold here for a few days and it rains all the time. And you? With you, your things. I would give a lot for news of you.

 

Tuesday, 29

Nothing. Yesterday evening we helped harvest grapes and we ate a lot of grapes.

 

Wednesday, 30

I received a letter from Mme Fourrier and from Willie. Tomorrow he will send a suitcase with my belongings, with the bus.

 

Thursday, October 1

Nothing from you. I [Page ends]

 

[...]

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Gift of Peter Feigl
Accession Number 1992.59
Date Created
August 27, 1942 to October 1, 1942
Page(s) 5
Author / Creator
Feigl, Peter
Language(s)
French
Location
Condom, France
Reference Location
Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France
Document Type Diary
How to Cite Museum Materials