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Peter Phillips Family Papers

Identifier: Mss 264

Scope and Contents

Researchers studying the Peter Phillips Family Papers will gain insight into Jewish life in Germany prior to World War II, immigration, and Jewish military service. The papers are arranged in alphabetical order by subject and chronologically within each folder.


  • Creation: 1833 - 1996

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Peter Hans Philipp was born on October 17, 1920 to attorney Dr. Richard Philipp and Vally Krakauer Philipp. He attended the Treitschke Real Gymnasium from 1931 until his transfer to the Waldschule Goldschmidt in 1935. In 1936, he left for Bodenbach, Czechoslovakia, to attend a Technikum holding classes in the German language. In the middle of 1938, he was granted a student visa by the French and he enrolled in the private school Ecole Violet for mechanical and electrical engineering. During the school’s summer vacation in 1938, he was hired by the Paris O.R.T. to teach French to a group of German Jewish refugees then awaiting visas at a small provincial hotel in the city of Poitiers. While on vacation the following summer, he was reported to the French Secret Police by the boyfriend of a girl vacationing nearby that had taken an interest in him. The outbreak of World War II looming, he was arrested on suspicion of espionage and questioned extensively. He could not obtain bail so this episode went on for several weeks and overlapped with the start of World War II, after which all German or stateless men of military age were interned by French authorities in several camps located throughout France. Peter’s accordion, saxophone, typewriter and text books were seized by the authorities while he was transferred to an internment camp for civil prisoners of war, despite the fact that by this time he had been granted an American immigration visa, as well as prepaid passage on a French line passenger vessel leaving France for New York. While interned, he was used as forced labor at a local lumberyard and vineyard. He slept on a straw bed in an empty warehouse where he was nearly killed by the blast wave of a bomb that exploded nearby. During the spring of 1940, Peter was relocated to a camp in Normandy near Brest. Although they had no knowledge of the pending Holocaust, all of his fellow internees, both Jewish and Gentile, were fearful of the German army and the Gestapo. When the Germans arrived at the camp, they separated the Jews from the Gentiles and permitted the non-Jews to leave camp during the day and eventually released. The Jewish prisoners, however, were forced to stay but given freedom to come and go and even supplied with motor vehicles. When the Gestapo orders came to lock up the Jewish prisoners, the German army commander in charge of the camp refused the request and sent the inmates on a special train to Paris. While in Paris, Peter met and stayed with Robert Liebman, the author of the internationally famous film, “Blue Angel,” starring Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings. By then it was late 1940 and Peter’s parents were still in Berlin. They managed to smuggle him a gold cigarette case to use to gain transit visas through Spain and Portugal, which were the only countries with regular connections to New York. In February, 1941, he received word that he could board a freighter leaving Marseille for Martinique if he could get to Marseille by March 30th. This task was near impossible because the German authorities refused to renew his passport. Miraculously, he was able to gain passage and arrived in New York in May, 1941, where is parents greeted him dockside. Once in America, Peter changed his last name to Phillips and served in the United States Army during World War II. He later became an engineer for Robins Engineers.


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Language of Materials




Peter Phillips was born in Berlin in 1920 and attended technical schools in Germany, Czechoslovakia, and France before fleeing Nazi Germany in March of 1941. After reaching America, he enlisted in the US Army and was stationed at Camp Ritchie, which operated as a base for German speaking soldiers, predominantly Jewish, to be trained in intelligence and interrogation. His papers contain material he collected while serving with the Ritchie Boys including internal Nazi documents and identification cards, but also personal material related to his family such as birth certificates, immigration documents, photographs, and records from his service in the military.


The papers are arranged in alphabetical order by subject and chronologically within each folder.

Physical Location

The Cuba Family Archives for Southern Jewish History, The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, 1440 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30309.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Cuba Family Archives for Southern Jewish History at the Breman Museum accessioned the Peter Phillips Family Papers in October, 2013.

Separated Materials

Photographs removed to visual arts collection.


The papers are on long-term loan from the Phillips Family.

Peter Phillips Family Papers, Mss 264
Jeremy Katz
October 2013
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum Repository

1440 Spring St. NW
Atlanta Georgia 30309 United States