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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:           ERIC MEYERHOFF

INTERVIEWER:      HARRIET MEYERHOFF

DATE:                      JULY, 1997

LOCATION:             SAVANNAH, GEORGIA

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Eric Meyerhoff was born March 20, 1929 in Arolsen, Germany. His father owned a dry goods store in Mengeringhausen, Germany. In 1937, Meyerhoff’s family (his father, mother, sister, and himself) emigrated to Jacksonville, Florida to escape the Nazi regime in Germany. He studied at the University of Florida and worked as an architect in Savannah, Georgia with his business partner, Robert Gunn. During the Korean War he served as a translator with the United States Army in Germany. Eric married Harriet Cranman Meyerhoff and together they raised two children, Mark and Margot.

Gunn and Meyerhoff became known for their work on the revitalization of the Riverfront in Savannah in the 1970s. They were involved with the restoration of many historic buildings, including the Massie Heritage Museum, the Juliette Gordon Low House, the Oliver Sturgess House, the Savannah Visitors Center, and the First and Second African Baptist Churches. The firm also designed the the Fahm Street Post Office building, restored Fort Jackson, and redesigned the Jewish Educational Alliance building.

Scope of Interview:

Eric Meyerhoff recalls his early childhood in Germany during the rise of the Nazi Party, the country’s growing anti-Semitism, and his family’s emigration to Jacksonville, Florida at the outbreak of the Second World War. He describes growing up as a Jewish German immigrant in Florida during the War, the attempts of other family members to escape from Germany via emigration, Kindertransport, and the M.S. St. Louis, as well as family that both survived and died in concentration camps.

Meyerhoff talks about living and working in downtown Savannah in the 1950s and 1960s. He describes the geography of downtown and Jewish life in Savannah at the time. Eric recalls activities at the JEA, B’nai B’rith, Hadassah, and Congregation B’nai B’rith Jacob, as well as his experiences challenging anti-Semitism in Savannah. He also recounts the birth of the urban renewal projects in Savannah and his firm’s involvement with the renovation and restoration of historic buildings downtown.

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