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Margit Morawetz

Innsbruck, Austria

When Margit was a baby, her family moved from Austria to Prague, Czechoslovakia. Her father was a banker from a religious Jewish family in Bohemia and her mother came from a Viennese family of Jewish origin. Margit knew many languages: Czech, French, English and German, which she spoke with her family.

1933-39: In 1938, when I was 16, attacks on Jews in central Europe escalated and my parents decided I should leave. I left secondary school in Prague and went to Paris, where I studied dressmaking. It was hard to live on my own and go to school, but in March 1939 my mother came to France. She lived outside Paris, and I saw her often. Once France was engaged in the war in September 1939, it became clear that Jews in France could be in danger.

1940-41: I apprehensively continued my studies until just before Paris fell to the Germans in June 1940. Refugees streamed to the unoccupied south of France, and I bought a bike so I, too, could flee. I rode for hours until I came to a school building where some refugees were staying. After a brief rest, I headed out in search of my mother, who had been sent to a detention camp on the Spanish border. Only hours after I left the building, the Germans blew the school to pieces.

Margit eventually found her mother, and the two fled, via Spain and Portugal, to the United States, where they settled in 1941.

 

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