After Peter Feigl's parents were deported from southwestern France to Auschwitz, he received help from the Jewish underground to get near enough to the Swiss border to attempt escape. Peter lay on the forest floor, awaiting the sounds of dogs barking, signaling a shift change in the guards on the German-occupied French side of the border. Peter ran as the guards fired shots toward him. He crossed the barbed wire and made it safely to neutral Switzerland.
Peter Feigl, the only child of Ernst and Agnes Bornstein Feigl, was born on March 1, 1929, in Berlin, Germany. His father, a mechanical engineer, worked for a multinational company selling automotive equipment throughout Europe while his mother stayed home to raise Peter in an upper middle class environment. When the family, who were non-practicing Jews, moved to Vienna in 1937, Peter was baptized in the Catholic Church in the hope he would be shielded from the virulent antisemitism in Germany and Austria.
In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria. Peter’s father fled to Belgium. When Germany invaded Belgium on May 10, 1940, his father was arrested as an enemy alien. Peter, his mother and grandmother fled to France where they were detained in Gurs as enemy aliens.
In June 1940, Peter and his mother were released from Gurs. With the help of local nuns, they settled in Auch, west of Toulouse, where Peter's mother was given part-time work in a food distribution center operated by American Quakers and the Swiss Red Cross. This helped the family move into a one-room apartment in Auch. Peter’s father, who also had been interned in Gurs, was released for health reasons and was allowed to join Peter and his mother in Auch in the spring of 1941. Meanwhile, Peter’s grandmother joined Peter’s aunt in Spain. They eventually obtained visas to the U.S. However, for Peter, his mother and father, several attempts to obtain U.S. immigration visas were unsuccessful.
In summer 1942, the Vichy government, in collaboration with the Nazis, began rounding up Jews and deporting them to German concentration camps in Poland. On August 26, 1942, unbeknownst to Peter who was in a Quaker summer camp, his parents were arrested and deported to Auschwitz where they were killed within a month of their arrival. With the help of the Quakers, Peter was sent to the predominantly Protestant village of Le Chambon sur Lignon. In the area surrounding Le Chambon nearly 5,000 people seeking refuge, among whom 3,500 were Jews including many children, were sheltered. In the village, Peter was given false identity papers and sent as a boarding student to a high school in Figeac, France. From there, after escaping arrest in May 1944 when Germans raided Figeac, Peter escaped to neutral Switzerland over barbed wire fences with the help of the Jewish underground.
Peter immigrated to the United States in July 1946 where he served three years in the U.S. Air Force. For 35 years, Peter pursued a career in international sales of aircraft and related services in the private sector and spent over five years as a Senior Negotiator in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Since retiring, Peter has traveled around the world speaking about his experiences and two diaries he wrote detailing his experiences during the Holocaust. In 1954, Peter married Leonie Warschauer and had two daughters. He is now a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.