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Booklet

Object | Accession Number: 2007.359.12

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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Booklet titled "Spojene Staty" acquired by Margit Morawetz Gyorgy when she worked for the Office of War Information. Before the war, Margit's mother, Lilly, sent her to study in Paris in 1938 because the expansion of German rule posed a threat to their life in Prague. Lilly joined Margit there a year later, but because she was an Austrian citizen, was imprisoned as an enemy alien after France declared war on Germany following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. Lilly was released when Germany occupied France in May 1940. She and Margit escaped to Portugal and, in 1941, were able to immigrate to the US. After America's entry into World War II, Margit worked for the Office of War Information, making use of her knowledge of languages. Postwar, Margit worked as a youth activities specialist for the U.S. Army Assistance Program to German Youth, re-educating former Hitler Youth in Furth, Germany.
    Title
    Spojene Staty
    Date
    publication/distribution:  approximately 1944
    Geography
    publication: Washington (D.C.)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Margit Meissner
    Contributor
    Distributor: United States Office of War Information
    Subject: Margit Meissner
    Biography
    The United States Office of War Information (OWI) was created on June 13, 1942, to centralize and control the content and production of government information and propaganda about the war. It coordinated the release of war news for domestic use, and using posters along with radio broadcasts, worked to promote patriotism, warn about foreign spies, and recruit women into war work. The office also established an overseas branch, which launched a large-scale information and propaganda campaign abroad. The government appealed to the public through popular culture and more than a quarter of a billion dollars' worth of advertising was donated during the first three years of the National Defense Savings Program. Victory in Europe was declared on May 8, 1945, and in Japan on September 2, 1945. The OWI ceased operation in September.
    Margit Morawetz was born February 26, 1922, in Innsbruck, Austria. Her parents were Gottlieb Morawetz and Lilly Tritsch. She had three older brothers, Paul, Felix, and Bruno. They ranged in age from 8 to 5 years older than Margit. The family was wealthy and assimilated. Margit's father came from an orthodox Jewish family of poor tenant farmers in Bohemia. He studied law in Vienna and worked as a bank director. Her mother came from an assimilated Jewish family in Vienna and was educated in England and France. When Margit was one year old, the family moved to Prague, Czechoslovakia, where her father taught on the law faculty of Charles University, in addition to working in finance. Margit and her brothers grew up speaking Czech, German, French, and English. Lilly was ambivalent about the family's Jewish identity and wanted to have the children baptized. Her husband would not allow it, and the children were never given any religious education. In 1932, Gottlieb died suddenly at age 52. Lilly was then 39. The two oldest brothers, Paul and Felix, went overseas. Bruno stayed in Prague and studied agriculture.

    In 1938, when Nazi Germany annexed Austria, Lilly decided it was safer to take Margit, then 16, out of school and send her to Paris, where she lived with a French family and studied dressmaking. Lilly was visiting Margit in Paris later that year when Germany annexed part of Czechoslovakia. Lilly hurried back to Prague to sell their home and ship their possessions to Paris, but while she was still in Prague, Germany annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia. Both she and her son Bruno managed to escape to Paris, but had to leave everything behind. Because of his agricultural training, Bruno was allowed to go to England to work as a farmhand. During this period, Margit was baptized a Lutheran with her mother's encouragement, possibly with the thought that it would provide some protection. Even before that, however, their papers did not identify them as Jews, only as Austrian citizens. When the authorities were interested in them, it was only as alien refugees, not as Jews.

    In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland and France declared war on Germany. Since Austria was now part of Germany, the French considered Austrian citizens enemy aliens. Lilly was deported to a detention camp in Gurs in southern France. Margit was ordered to report in to the Paris police on a regular basis. In May1940, Germany invaded France. As German forces approached Paris, Margit bought a bicycle and joined the exodus from Paris toward the south. She spent the night with other refugees in a school in Etampes. Early in the morning, she resumed her trip south, leaving the school two hours before it was hit by German bombs. In Orleans, she boarded a train to Salies-de-Bearn, close to Gurs and the border that had just been established between the German Occupied Zone and the Free Zone. Now that France had capitulated, people with Austrian citizenship were no longer enemy aliens, so Lilly was released and rejoined Margit. They hired a farmer to smuggle their bags across the boundary into the Free Zone, and crossed over unencumbered as if they were just going for a stroll. So as not to be identified as foreign nationals, they carried no identification papers with them, only food ration cards that they still had from Paris, to give the impression that they were residents of that city. They traveled to Marseilles and began the long process of obtaining exit visas from France and immigration visas to some other country. When their money ran low, they received financial aid from the American rescuer Varian Fry. They eventually obtained transit visas to Spain and Portugal and a visa to the Belgian Congo on the grounds that Margit's father had owned shares in a Congolese mining firm. France, however, would not grant them exit visas before their transit visas were due to expire, so Margit and her mother traveled by train to Cerbere and walked through the hills into Spain illegally. They were arrested by Spanish police and spent several days in jail until German friends who now lived in Barcelona obtained their release. Margit and her mother then traveled on to Lisbon, Portugal. Since many other refugees had arrived there without much clothing, Margit was able to earn money as a dressmaker. They contacted Margit's brother Felix, who was living in the United States. He facilitated their immigration and they arrived in America in April 1941.

    In December 1941, Margit married Otmar Gyorgy, a G.I. and a friend of her brother Felix. After America's entry into World War II, she worked for the Office of War Information, making use of her knowledge of languages, which now included Spanish and Portuguese. After the war, Margit worked for the U.S. Army Assistance Program to German Youth Activities, re-educating former Hitler Youth in Furth, Germany. She and Otmar eventually divorced. In 1953, she married Frank Meissner, a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Czechoslovakia. They had 2 children. Frank, age 67, died of cancer in 1990.

    Physical Details

    Language
    Czech
    Object Type
    Pamphlets (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Missing front cover and pages 1-2 ; 22 cm.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Topical Term
    Political science.

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The booklet was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007 by Margit Meissner.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:12:13
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn524419

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