Ouch: Pierre Figel, Jewish child refugee in Gerse, traces his past

Pierre Feigel was Auch’s student for two years from 1940 to 1942. Living in the United States since the end of World War II, he has returned to the department in recent days to revisit the places where he lived.

Standing in the middle of Salinis ’backyard, the former“ small high school ”, Pierre Feigel, 93, is observing the surrounding buildings when his memory comes back. “We taught physical education in a square yard, he remembers. We had to jump in rows, raise our hands.” With Jean-Claude Dures, principal of Salinas College, he then enters the buildings and can recognize the washbasins lined up in front of the refinery.

Pierre Figel, 93, testified to his experience at school.
DDM – Nedir Debiche

Pierre Figel studied at Salinas College for one year in the sixth grade in 1941-1942 when his family was fleeing the Germans. Born in Berlin in 1929 to an Austrian father and a German mother, a non-practicing Jewish family, and living in Vienna when Austria was annexed by Adolf Hitler, he fled to Belgium in early 1938. “When I come, I don’t speak French at all,” he recalls.

Two Gers years

During the invasion of Belgium, the family again fled to the south of France, and in June 1940 came to Auchy somewhat abruptly. The younger son, his parents and his grandmother were then aided by an English religious movement, the Quakers. The family took refuge in Gascony for two years, and Pierre continued his education there, first at a school in Ru de Metz, then at Salinis College.

This Monday, June 20, back at Ossetian College, Pierre Figel recognized the classroom where “the Latin teacher beat me in front of the whole class because I returned a blank sheet for an exam”, the former student smiled before mentioning “my classmates to remove the blackboard Fight with “. For a few days, he followed the path he had traveled as a child, with Jackie, a friend, and two American academics who collected his testimony.

Child victims

In August 1942, while Pierre was in a condom summer camp in Chateau de Montelion, his parents were arrested and deported. The young man was sent to Marseille by the camp director to take a boat to the United States. But before the Germans invaded the Free Territory and joined Figak (46) in 1943, the young boy was finally welcomed to Chambon-sur-Lignon (43), where he was educated in the “Pierre Fesson” Lacy Champion. , Born in Auche. During the May 12, 1944 Roundup, he took refuge in the Bell Tower of the Church Tower, briefly escaping exile, which he visited again this week.

In recent days, Pierre Figel has returned to France to find traces of his past.

In recent days, Pierre Figel has returned to France to find traces of his past.
DDM – Nedir Debiche

He then took to the streets again and crossed the Swiss border where he remained until 1946. He then flew to New York in 1946 to join his uncle and aunt. “When I came, I didn’t say a word of English, I think. Pierre Figel. So I went to the movies and saw at least four pictures a day. That’s how I learned the language.” Later, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force but could not become a pilot. He was then sent to a school of technical intelligence due to his proficiency in different languages ​​and achieved a brilliant career in aeronautics.

From now on, Pierre Figel lives in Maryland near Washington. He still speaks perfect French, “thank you for my position in Algeria” and testified to his experience at school, this Monday, June 20, in front of a class at the Conderset School in Auch. He was assisted by a diary that began at the time of his parents’ arrest. And written in an old Ossetian Latin notebook.

The situation in Ukraine is “resonated” with its history

“When I see pictures of Ukrainian families who have left their country and left everything behind, it resonates with me because unfortunately I know what it is, Pierre Feigel says. I think it’s worth leaving us everything.” Leaving Vienna, he remembers leaving his electric train and his scooter behind. “It hurt me a lot but it’s nothing compared to my parents leaving their whole lives behind.”

Pierre Feigel sees in this war, “a repetition of the events of 1930 with Germany that invaded Czechoslovakia because the population there also speaks German.” But the former Ossetian student is glad that the European Union supports Ukraine. “I don’t know if he supports her enough but she hasn’t closed her eyes yet. It’s important not to be a spectator of injustice.”

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