Margit Meissner was born on February 26, 1922 in Innsbruck, Austria and grew up in Prague, Czechoslovakia. In 1938, following the German annexation of Austria and the persecution of Jews there, Margit’s mother Margit to be in a safer place snd sent her to live with a Franch family in Paris.
Upon arrival in Paris, Margit began studying dressmaking. Her mother joined her in the French capital a year later, but it was not long before their lives were again thrown into turmoil. After the outbreak of World War II, Margit’s mother received a notice ordering her to report to a French police station. When she arrived, she was detained as an Austrian (now German) national, and sent to Camp de Gurs, a detention center along the border with Spain. With no other way to leave Paris, Margit purchased a bicycle and rode almost 20 miles to a school outside of Paris. It was there that she learned of her mother’s detention.
“It was very disturbing, and you could see all these civilians who died and who had nothing to eat. It was very difficult for me emotionally to find some kind of balance between these two feelings. And so I felt that I needed to do something meaningful and I got a job with the American Army of Occupation to re-educate German youth.”
Luckily, she was able to obtain a train ticket to Salis-de-Bearn. A few weeks later, France surrendered to Germany and in the ensuing chaos Margit’s mother was able to escape from the camp. The pair, together again, snuck out of German-occupied France to Marseilles. From Marseilles the family fled, via Spain and Portugal, to the United States, and settled with Margit’s brother, Felix, in New York.
Close to 250,000 Jews lived in Austria before WWII. Only 18,000 survived the Holocaust.
Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum