Porges family papers
The collection consists of documents and photographs regarding the Holocaust-era experiences of the Porges family of Vienna, Austria. Includes pre-war family photographs, identification documents, and paperwork related to immigration to the United States in 1946.
- Document Creator
- Paul P. Porges
Paul Peter Porges, known as PPP, was born on February 7, 1927, in Vienna, Austria. His father, Gustav, was born in Scheibbs, Austria, on April 28, 1892. His mother, Jeanette (Jenny) Menschel, was born on November 11, 1900, in Cernovitz, Romania. Gustav served in the Austrian Army in World War I (1914-1918) and was stationed in Vienna. He met and married Jenny in 1919. Gustav had an import and export business and Jenny ran the family grocery store. Paul’s brother, Kurt, was born on July 23, 1920. The family was assimilated though they did observe holidays. Paul was aware that his family was different because they were Jewish. He attended a Catholic public school and, as a Jew, had to leave the room during catechism instruction. Paul attended a Jewish school each Sunday and took youth art lessons at the local college.
German troops marched into Austria on March 12, 1938, and the next day, Austria was incorporated into the German Reich. Anti-Jewish legislation was enacted. Gustav could no longer travel and conduct business and the Porges family store was boycotted. Eleven year old Paul was forced to leave public school and attend a Jewish school. He was spit on and called a Jew bastard by former school friends, and attacked by members of the Hitler Youth. Paul became ashamed of being Jewish and just wanted to be like everybody else. As a way to meet other young Jews, Paul joined Hashomer Hatzair, a Zionist youth organization. Gustav was still very well liked and gentile friends came to visit the family and store. A business partner, who was a high ranking member of the Nazi party, brought him a basket of food and said that if he had known how bad things were going to get, he never would have joined the party. During the Kristallnacht pogrom on November 9-10, 1938, uniformed Nazis and a mob stormed the grocery store and painted “Jude” [Jew] and red Stars of David on the front. The family hid in the back room during the onslaught.
In March 1939, Paul’s parents registered him with a Jewish organization which arranged for him to leave on a Kindertransport to France. A group of about seventy children, age ten to fourteen, sponsored by the Rothschild family, were transported on March 15 to the Rothschild mansion, Chateau de la Guette, outside Paris. Paul drew self-portraits, images of home, and violent images of war as a way to express his feelings. After the German invasion of France in May 1940, the children were evacuated to La Bourboule, a former spa in the unoccupied free zone in central France. That summer, Paul was sent to hotel school in Nice. In early 1941, he left to go live with his cousin, Max, and attend high school in St. Etienne. With Max’s help, Paul obtained documents which he falsified by forging signatures and dates, and changed the name to Georges De Nez. With the false papers, he was able to procure ration coupons. He joined a French fascist youth group to get further south where they performed agricultural labor. He left the group and attempted to escape across the border into Spain. He was caught and sent back to France. Paul headed for Lyon and was arrested, but was released when he showed his false papers.
In April 1942, he attempted to escape to Switzerland and was arrested by a French gendarme. The officer brought Paul to his home and handcuffed him while he ate dinner with his family. Paul watched them eat and they offered him no food. The next day, he took Paul to the local jail. Paul no longer had his false papers as he had felt it was too dangerous to keep them. He was deported to Rivesaltes internment camp in France and placed in quarantine. The sanitary conditions were terrible and there was no food. Paul had boils on his neck, and he demanded, and got, medical attention. As a child, Paul had more freedom to move around and on October 3, he smuggled himself out in a garbage transport. He reached a Jewish community in Toulouse and was sent to a children’s home, Chateau de Montintin, in Limoges.
On January 25, 1943, with the help of a Jewish underground group, Paul and fifteen others were smuggled across the Swiss border. The group was arrested. Paul was the only one allowed to stay as he was a minor and was sent to a refugee camp in Geneva. A Swiss welfare organization sent him to school. He was later sent to Zurich and admitted to a graphic arts school but could not attend because he could not pay the tuition. He was next sent to a juvenile delinquent camp. In 1944, Paul began studying art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Geneva. In a modeling class in May 1945, he met Lucie Eisenstab. Lucie and her family were also from Vienna and survived the war in hiding in Belgium and France, and finally, Switzerland.
While in Switzerland, Paul was in touch with his nanny who told him that his parents had been deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp in October 1942. Paul sent them packages via Portugal. Gustav and Jenny were liberated from Theresienstadt on May 8, 1945, by the Soviet Army. Paul met his mother after liberation at the Swiss border. By October, his parents had returned to Vienna. Many of their family members had disappeared and were presumed dead.
Kurt left Austria for England prior to the war, and then went to the United States, arriving on the SS Scythia on April 17, 1940. He procured visas for his parents and Paul. Gustav and Jenny arrived in New York on July 15, 1946, on the SS Marine Fisher. Paul did not want to leave Lucie but had to leave to join his parents in 1947. From 1947 until 1948, he traveled as an interpreter for Ringling Brothers circus. He planned to return to Europe and marry Lucie, but in 1950, he was drafted into the US Army due to the Korean War. He was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, and began drawing cartoons for the army newspaper. In 1951, Lucie emigrated to the US and the couple married. They had two daughters. Paul attended art school. He sold his first cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post in 1954. He later worked as a professional cartoonist for publications such as MAD Magazine and the New Yorker. Lucie became associate designer and artist-in-residence at the Pauline Trigere fashion house. Lucie, age 85, passed away in 2011 in New York.
- System of Arrangement
- The collection is arranged as a single series.
- Topical Term
- Geographic Name
- Personal Name
Porges, Paul Peter.
Porges, Lucie, 1926-
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- The papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Paul Peter Porges.
- Conditions on Access
- No restrictions on access
- Conditions on Use
- No restrictions on use
Record last modified: 2020-06-10 15:21:28
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