Survivor STORY

Peter Forchheimer was born in Coburg, Germany, in 1924. He attended public grade school there until he was thrown out after the Nuremberg Laws were passed, whereupon he was able to continue his education in a Jewish school. In 1938, Peter received a visa from an uncle in Alpine, Texas, and that enabled him to emigrate to the United States by himself at the age of fourteen and a half. Peter's younger siblings were able to leave Germany on a Kindertransport, and his parents managed to get to England just two weeks before the outbreak of the war. The family was reunited in Columbus, Ohio, in 1939.

Peter started college at The Ohio State University, but volunteered for military service after the United States entered the war. He served in an intelligence unit charged with interrogating German prisoners of war. He stayed on in Germany for about a year and a half as part of the American presence that assisted in setting up the civil government in Germany, then returned to Columbus.

Back home, Peter eventually joined his father and brother in the family wholesale business, for which he worked until he retired. He enjoyed a second short career as a stock broker and investment adviser. Peter and his wife, Marianne, moved to Atlanta to be near one of their three daughters and her family.

Separation From and Finding Family

They could see the things getting worse and worse, so they could see what was coming, although no one imagined the severity of the problem at the time. And it was almost customary for those who had the opportunity to send their children out, even if they themselves didn't have the necessary papers to emigrate. So, I was the oldest of three children and they sent me out ahead. My siblings, who were two years younger and four years younger, managed to go to England a little bit later, in 1939, on a kindertransport, which was a special deal just for children to be taken in in English homes. Eventually, my parents also made it out, just a week or two before the war started. And of course, after that, the curtain fell and no one could get out any more. They also went to England, and eventually, the whole family reunited in the United States in 1939.

To Germany as a Soldier

I wanted to, as soon as Pearl Harbor happened, I wanted to volunteer, and I went down to the recruiting station, but my eyesight as not good enough. And they said "We can't take you," and they sent me home. And being that I was determined, I had an optometrist acquaintance and he lent me the eye chart that all optometrists still use to this day, and I memorized the eye chart. And about three weeks later, I went back to the recruiting station, and I was in like Flynn right then. Had I known then what I learned afterwards, maybe I would have been less enthusiastic about applying, but I was full of patriotism at that time, and the urge to help get rid of Hitler and the Nazis and that was a pretty strong motivator. The army sent me to basic training, and after that they sent me to an interpreter school and to Stanford University in the A.S.T.P. program, where we learned the Indonesian language and learned Dutch, and with the goal of being sent to Indonesia once that was liberated. However, we never made it that far because I was sent to the European Theater, and I was with Patton's Third Army in Belgium, and France, and eventually in Germany. I was a staff sergeant in an interrogation unit, where we questioned German prisoners. We found out where their units were located; we censored some letters. Generally, we were involved with some prisoners during the war and with setting up the civil government right after the war. And I got out of the army in 1947, I think it was, about a year and a half after the end of the war.

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Peter Forchheimer