Drancy internment camp

The Drancy internment camp was an assembly and detention camp for confining Jews who were later deported to the extermination camps during the German military administration of Occupied France during World War II. It was located in Drancy, a northeastern suburb of Paris, France. Between 22 June 1942, and 31 July 1944, during its use as an internment camp, 67,400 French, Polish, and German Jews were deported from the camp in 64 rail transports,[1] which included 6,000 children. Only 1,542 remained alive at the camp when Allied forces liberated it on 17 August 1944.[2]

Drancy was under the control of the French police until 1943 when administration was taken over by the SS, who placed officer Alois Brunner in charge of the camp. In 2001, Brunner's case was brought before a French court by Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, which sentenced Brunner in absentia to a life sentence for crimes against humanity.[3]

Transit camp
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B10919, Frankreich, Internierungslager Drancy
The accommodation block at Drancy with French gendarme on guard
Drancy internment camp is located in France
Drancy internment camp
Location of Drancy within France
LocationDrancy, France
Operated byFrench police (until 1943)
Nazi Germany
CommandantTheodor Dannecker
Alois Brunner
Original useUtopian urban community
Operational20 August 1941–17 August 1944
InmatesFrench, Polish, and German Jews
Number of inmates67,400 deported; 1,542 remaining at liberation
Liberated byFrench Resistance (indirectly Western Allies)
Notable inmatesTristan Bernard, Eduard Bloch, René Blum, Max van Dam, Max Jacob, Charlotte Salomon, Simone Weil

Operational history

After the 1940 defeat by Germany and 10 July 1940 vote of full powers to Marshal Philippe Pétain, the Republic was abolished and Vichy France was proclaimed. The Vichy government cooperated with Nazi Germany, hunting down foreign and French Jews and turning them over to the Gestapo for transport to the Third Reich's extermination camps.

The Drancy internment camp became identified by the northeastern suburb of Paris in which it was located. It was originally conceived by the noted architects Marcel Lods and Eugène Beaudouin as a striking, modernist urban community. The design was especially noteworthy for its integration of high-rise residential apartment towers, among the first of their kind in France. Poetically named La Cité de la Muette ("The Silent City") at its creation for its perceived peaceful ideals, the name became twisted with bitterly ironic meaning. The entire complex was confiscated by Nazi authorities not long after the German occupation of France in 1940. It was used first as police barracks, then converted into the primary detention center in the Paris region for holding Jews and other people labeled as "undesirable" before deportation.

On 20 August 1941, French police conducted raids throughout the 11th arrondissement of Paris and arrested more than 4,000 Jews, mainly foreign or stateless Jews. French authorities interned these Jews in Drancy, marking its official opening. French police enclosed the barracks and courtyard with barbed-wire fencing and provided guards for the camp. Drancy fell under the command of the Gestapo Office of Jewish Affairs in France and German SS Captain Theodor Dannecker. Five subcamps of Drancy were located throughout Paris (three of which were the Austerlitz, Lévitan and Bassano camps).[4] Following the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup on 16 and 17 July 1942, more than 4,900 of the 13,152 victims of the mass arrest were sent directly to the camp at Drancy before their deportation to Auschwitz.

Map of Holocaust sites, with the Drancy camp and routes by Paris

Drancy was under the control of the French police until 3 July 1943 when Germany took direct control of the Drancy camp. SS officer Alois Brunner became camp commandant as part of the major stepping up at all facilities needed for mass extermination. The French police carried out additional roundups of Jews throughout the war. Some Drancy inmates died as hostage pawns. In December 1941, 40 prisoners from Drancy were executed in retaliation for a French attack on German police officers.[4]

In November 1943 around 350 inmates of the Borgo San Dalmazzo concentration camp in Italy were deported by train to Drancy and, soon after, on to Auschwitz. The inmates from Borgo, Jewish refugees from a number of European countries, had been arrested after the Italian surrender in September 1943, having mostly come to Italy from France in search for safety from Nazi prosecution.[5]


Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S69243, Frankreich, Konzentrationslager Drancy
Jews at Drancy in 1941
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S69244, Internierungslager Drancy in Frankreich
Weill, Théodore Valensi, Azoulay, Albert Ulmo, Cremieux, Eduard Bloch and Pierre Massé held at Drancy in 1941

The Drancy camp was designed to hold 700 people, but at its peak held more than 7,000. There is documented evidence and testimony recounting the brutality of the French guards in Drancy and the harsh conditions imposed on the inmates. For example, upon their arrival, small children were immediately separated from their parents for deportation to the death camps.[4]

On 6 April 1944, SS First Lieutenant Klaus Barbie raided a children's home in Izieu, France, where Jewish children had been hidden. Barbie arrested everyone present, all 44 children and 7 adult staff members. The next day, the Gestapo transported the arrestees to Drancy. From there, all the children and staff were deported to Auschwitz. None of them survived.[4]

Many French Jewish intellectuals and artists were held in Drancy, including Max Jacob (who died there), Tristan Bernard, and the choreographer René Blum. Of the 75,000 Jews whom French and German authorities deported from France, more than 67,000 were sent directly from Drancy to Auschwitz.[4] Dutch painter Max van Dam, captured in France en route to Switzerland, was briefly incarcerated in Drancy where he was able to paint and create print work. He was among the 1008 deportees on Transport 53 which left Drancy, on 25 March 1943, with the final destination of Sobibor. Van Dam was spared upon arrival and survived for six months painting for the SS but was killed in September 1943.[6] There were also many non-French Jews captured in France and deported to Drancy to await final deportation to Auschwitz and other death camps. They included the noted German artist Charlotte Salomon, who had lived in the south of France after fleeing from the nazis in Germany. By September 1943, Charlotte Salomon had married another German Jewish refugee, Alexander Nagler. The two of them were dragged from their house and transported by rail from Nice to Drancy. By now, Charlotte Salomon was five months pregnant. She was transported to Auschwitz on 7 October 1943 and was probably gassed on the same day that she arrived there (10 October).

As the Allies were approaching Paris in August 1944, the German officers fled, and the camp was liberated on 17 August when control of the camp was given over to the French Resistance and Swedish diplomat Raoul Nordling.[7]


Drancy Wagon-Témoin
The railway wagon used to carry internees to Auschwitz and now displayed at Drancy
Drancy Receipt
Receipt for French francs taken from Jewish inmate at Drancy, stating that "the Aeltestenrat [Council of Elders] at the new place of settlement is under obligation to (re)pay its countervalue in [Polish] zloty"

In 1977, the Memorial to the Deportation at Drancy was created by sculptor Shlomo Selinger to commemorate the French Jews imprisoned in the camp.

Until recently, the official point of view of the French government was that the Vichy regime was an illegal government distinct from the French Republic. While the criminal behaviour of Vichy France and the collaboration of French officials were acknowledged, and some former Vichy officials prosecuted, this point of view denied any responsibility of the French Republic. This perspective, held by Charles de Gaulle among others, underlined in particular the circumstances of the July 1940 vote of the full powers to Marshal Pétain, who installed the "French State" and repudiated the Republic. With only the Vichy 80 refusing this vote, historians have argued it was anti-Constitutional, most notably because of pressure on parliamentarians from Pierre Laval.

However, on 16 July 1995, president Jacques Chirac, in a speech, recognized the responsibility of the French State, and in particular of the French police which organized the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup (Rafle du Vel' d'Hiv) of July 1942, for seconding the "criminal folly of the occupying country".[8]

On 20 January 2005, arsonists set fire to some railroad freight cars in the former camp; a tract signed "Bin Laden" with an inverted swastika was found on the place.

On 11 April 2009, a swastika was painted on the train car used for the deportation of Jews, a permanent exhibit. This action was condemned by the French Minister for the Interior, Michèle Alliot-Marie.[9][10]

New museum

A new Shoah memorial museum was opened in 2012 just opposite the sculpture memorial and railway wagon by the President of France, François Hollande. It provides details of the persecution of the Jews in France and many personal mementos of inmates before their deportation to Auschwitz and their death. They include messages written on the walls, many graffiti, aluminium drinking mugs and other personal belongings left by the prisoners, some of which are inscribed with the names of the owners. The archive also includes the cards and letters written by the prisoners to their relatives before deportation, and they are a moving contribution to the memory of the camp, and the crime of their detention. The ground floor shows a changing exhibit of prisoner faces and names, as a Memorial to their imprisonment and then murder by the Nazis, assisted by the gendarmerie of Occupied France.

Documentary films

  • Drancy: A Concentration Camp in Paris 1941–1944, Worldview Pictures, 1994.
  • Drancy Avenir, 1997.


Nicolas Grenier, Cité de la Muette (poem), in honor of Max Jacob, who died in the Drancy camp, 2011.

The concentration camp also featured in a part of Sebastian Faulks' 1999 novel Charlotte Gray. The character of Levade was an inmate here, as well as young brothers André and Jacob Duguay. Charlotte was staying at a small hotel nearby to try and pass on a message to Levade.

See also


  1. ^ "This Month in Holocaust History – December – Drancy". Yad Vashem. Retrieved 20 April 2010.. The 61,000 deported to Auschwitz and remaining to Sobibor were murdered
  2. ^ "Related Resources – Drancy". Yad Vashem. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  3. ^ Alois Brunner. Jewish Virtual Library
  4. ^ a b c d e United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. "Drancy". Holocaust Encyclopedia.
  5. ^ "BORGO SAN DALMAZZO". ANED – National Association of Italian political deportees from Nazi concentration camps. Archived from the original on 28 August 2018. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  6. ^ Wim Scholtz (ed.) et al (1986) Max van Dam Joods Kunstenaar 1910 – 1943
  7. ^ "Drancy". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  8. ^ En 1995, la reconnaissance des « fautes commises par l'Etat », Le Monde, 25 January 2005 (in French)
  9. ^ Swastikas painted on French memorial. Jerusalem Post. 11 April 2009
  10. ^ Des croix gammées tracées au Mémorial de la déportation à Drancy. Le Monde, 11 April 2009.

External links

Media related to Drancy camp at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 48°55′12″N 2°27′18″E / 48.92000°N 2.45500°E

Alfred Deutsch-German

Alfred Deutsch-German (1870–1943) was an Austrian journalist, playwright, screenwriter, and film director. From 1913 he worked for the Wiener Kunstfilm company as a screenwriter. Between 1922 and 1934 he directed eight films. Deutsch-German worked in the Austrian film industry until the Anchluss of 1938, but with less direct involvement in the production of films towards the end.

Following the Nazi takeover, the Jewish Deutsch-German went into exile in France. He was later arrested during the German occupation of France and held at the Drancy internment camp. He was later sent to Auschwitz where he was killed.

Alois Brunner

Alois Brunner (8 April 1912 – 2001 or 2010) was an Austrian Schutzstaffel (SS) officer who worked as Adolf Eichmann's assistant. Brunner is held responsible for sending over 100,000 European Jews to ghettos and concentration camps in eastern Europe. He was commander of the Drancy internment camp outside Paris from June 1943 to August 1944, from which nearly 24,000 people were deported.

After some narrow escapes from the Allies in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Brunner fled West Germany in 1954, first for Egypt, then Syria, where he remained until his death. He was the object of many manhunts and investigations over the years by different groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Klarsfelds and others. He was condemned to death in absentia in France in 1954 for crimes against humanity. He lost an eye and then the fingers of his left hand as a result of letter bombs sent to him in 1961 and 1980, reportedly by Israeli intelligence. The government of Syria under Hafez el-Assad came close to extraditing him to East Germany before this plan was halted by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. Brunner survived all the attempts to detain him and was unrepentant about his activities to the end. During his long residence in Syria, Brunner was reportedly granted asylum, a generous salary and protection by the ruling Ba'ath Party in exchange for his advice on effective torture and interrogation techniques used by the Germans in World War II.Starting in the 1990s and continuing for two decades, there was periodic media speculation about Brunner's exact whereabouts and his possible demise. In November 2014, the Simon Wiesenthal Center reported that Brunner had died in Syria in 2010, and that he was buried somewhere in Damascus. The exact date of death and place of death are unknown, with recent information pointing to 2001 as the year of his death.

Arthur Goldstein

Arthur Goldstein (18 March 1887 in Lipine, Germany – 1943 in Auschwitz, German-occupied Poland) was a German journalist and communist politician.

Bernard Natan

Bernard Natan (born Natan Tannenzaft; July 14, 1886 – October 1942) was a Franco-Romanian film entrepreneur, director and actor of the 1920s and 1930s. He was once said by historians to be one of the earliest (if not the earliest) pornographic film directors and porn stars, although there is now considerable doubt about this. Natan certainly worked in mainstream cinema from his youngest days, working his way up from projectionist and chemist to cinematographer and producer. He eventually acquired the giant French motion picture studio Pathé in 1929. Pathé collapsed in 1935, and Natan was convicted of fraud. However, he laid the foundation for the modern film industry in France and helped revolutionize film technology around the world.

Béatrice Reinach

Béatrice Reinach (1894–1945) was a French socialite and a Holocaust victim.

David Vogel (author)

David Vogel (1891–1944) was a Russian-born Hebrew poet, novelist, and diarist.

Gare du Bourget

Gare du Bourget is a Réseau Express Régional (RER) train station in Le Bourget, a northern suburb of Paris, in the Seine-Saint-Denis département of France. The station is in Zone 3 of the Carte orange. It is on the RER B suburban railway line.

Gare du Bourget was the primary point of deportation for French Jews during the Holocaust. Between 27 March 1942 and 23 June 1943, 42 trains carrying 40,450 Jews left Le Bourget for Auschwitz concentration camp and other extermination camps in Poland. Most had been imprisoned in the nearby Drancy internment camp. Drancy was organised, staffed and initially commanded by the civilian French police, who rounded up most of the victims.

As Le Bourget station was too visible to the wider public, the next 21 trains left the Bobigny freight station.

Moissey Kogan

Moissey Kogan (Orhei, Bessarabia 12 March 1879 – 3 March 1943 Auschwitz-Birkenau), was an East European-Jewish medalist, sculptor and graphic artist who spent much of his time in Paris and travelled throughout Europe. He specialised in creating sculptures and graphic art based on the female form. The Moissey Kogan Archive of the European Cultural Foundation, in Bonn, collects and captures the entire work of the artist.

Kogan is sometimes confused with Russian painter Moisey Kogan, (1924-2001), who specialized in colorful oil paintings of Russian village life, landscapes, churches etc. [1]


Pitchipoi is the imaginary place where displaced Jews in France believed they would be deported to, while they were interned in the Drancy internment camp awaiting transport to Auschwitz.

In her biography of the painter Charlotte Salomon, who was transported from Drancy to Auschwitz in September 1943, Mary Felstiner quotes from the testimony of Holocaust survivors the following points:

For some, Pitchipoi was the nonsense name of a Polish ghetto, a Yiddish name used by Polish Jews; for some, the word "resonated like an eternal curse"; for others, "Pitchipoi was a place of compulsory forced labor".It was Nazi policy to keep Jewish prisoners in a state of ignorance about their final destination, so Pitchipoi was invented to fill this vacuum in their knowledge. Most prisoners were murdered on arrival at the death camps organised by the Germans.

René Blum (impresario)

René Blum (13 March 1878 – September 1942) was a French theatrical impresario. He was the founder of the Ballet de l'Opéra at Monte Carlo and was the younger brother of the Socialist Prime Minister of France, Léon Blum. A Jew, he was interned in various camps from 1941 until he was murdered by the Nazis at the Auschwitz concentration camp in late September 1942. While at the camps, he was known for keeping up the spirits of his fellow prisoners with tales of his life in the arts.

René Tavernier (poet)

René Tavernier published his first poems before the Second World War in the New French Review, immediately noticed by Jean Wahl, which brought him recognition by Emmanuel Levinas and Jean-Paul Sartre.

A friend of a friend of Vladimir Jankélévitch, the French philosopher and poet fled to the United States after having escaped from the Drancy camp where he was interned.

Joining writers and journalists during the war led him to Lyon in the neighborhood where he directed Montchat Confluences - A journal on "Literature and Arts" - founded by Jacques Aubenque between July 1941 and 1943. It is in this review, which included as the "original purpose" to "bring together writers and ideas from diverse backgrounds in the service of humanism" that he published the poems of Pierre Emmanuel, Max Jacob, Henri Michaux, Paul Éluard and Louis Aragon, one of whose poems is also the cause of the suspension of the magazine for a few months. Firmly committed to the Resistance, René Tavernier organized clandestine meetings at his home until the end of 1943 with Elsa Triolet and Louis Aragon.

Richard Löwenbein

Richard Löwenbein (1894–1943) was an Austrian screenwriter and film director. He was active in the German film industry during the Weimar Republic. The Jewish Löwenbein left Germany for France following the Nazi Party's rise to power in 1933. After Germany occupied France in 1940 he was arrested and held at the Drancy internment camp before being transported to Auschwitz where he was killed.

Round up of Marseille

The Round up of Marseille (22–24 January 1943) took place in the Old Port of Marseille under the Vichy regime during the German occupation of France. Assisted by the French police, directed by René Bousquet, the Germans organized a raid to arrest Jewish people. The police checked the identity documents of 40,000 people, and the operation sent 2,000 Marseillais first to Fréjus, then to the camp of Royallieu near Compiègne, in the Northern Zone of France, and then to Drancy internment camp, last stop before the extermination camps. The operation also encompassed the expulsion of an entire neighborhood (30,000 persons) before its destruction. Located in the Old Port, the 1st arrondissement was considered by the Germans to be a "terrorist nest" because of its small, windy and curvy streets For this occasion, SS leader Carl Oberg, in charge of the German Police in France, made the trip from Paris, and transmitted to Bousquet orders directly received from Himmler. It is a notable case of the French police's collaboration with the German occupiers.

Suzanne Kohn

Suzanne Kohn (née Netre, 18 September 1895 – 8 March 1945) was a French Jew who died in a Nazi concentration camp.Kohn was born into one of France's most prominent Jewish families; her father owned a tobacco company, her grandparents were personal friends of Albert I, Prince of Monaco and she grew up in an environment of wealth and elegance.Kohn's husband, Armand Kohn, was Secretary-General of the Rothschild Foundation in Paris from 1940. The couple had four children: Antoinette, Rose-Marie, Philippe and Georges André. In 1942 Kohn and her children converted to Catholicism to avoid the persecution of Jews by the Nazi regime, however in July 1944 the family was arrested and imprisoned in the Drancy internment camp in Paris. Kohn and her daughter Antoinette were taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they both died.

Theodor Dannecker

Theodor Dannecker (27 March 1913 – 10 December 1945) was an SS Hauptsturmführer (Captain), and an associate of Adolf Eichmann. As a Judenberater, he was one of those who orchestrated the Final Solution in several countries during the Holocaust.

Theodore Ritch

Theodore Ritch (1894 in Odessa – 1943) was a Russian tenor. During the 1920s he was tenor of the Chicago Opera.In Chicago in 1929-30 he sang Leopold in La Juive with Rosa Raisa, Charles Marshall, and Alexander Kipnis. He also sang the King of the Fools in Louise with Mary Garden, Rene Maison, Maria Claessens, and Vanni Marcoux. The following season (1930–31) he sang Ramon in La Navarraise, Gaston in Camille by Hamilton Forrest with Garden and Charles Hackett, and also Cassio in Otello with Marshall, Claudia Muzio, and Vanni-Marcoux.Recordings exist of arias from Tosca and Manon.

He retired in Paris, where he appears to have evaded the rafle du Vél' d'hiv in July 1942, but was arrested in 1943 and sent to Drancy. He died on a train headed for a concentration camp, presumably Auschwitz, in Poland.

Vichy anti-Jewish legislation

Anti-Jewish laws were enacted by the Vichy France government in 1940 and 1941 affecting metropolitan France and its overseas territories during World War II. These laws were, in fact, decrees of head of state Marshal Philippe Pétain, since Parliament was no longer in office as of 11 July 1940. The motivation for the legislation was spontaneous and was not mandated by Germany. These laws were declared null and void on 9 August 1944 after liberation and on the restoration of republican legality.

The statutes were aimed at depriving Jews of the right to hold public office, designating them as a lower class, and depriving them of citizenship. Many Jews were subsequently rounded up at Drancy internment camp before being deported for extermination in Nazi concentration camps.

Victor Perez

Messaoud Hai Victor "Young" Perez (October 18, 1911 – January 21, 1945) was a Tunisian Jewish boxer, who became the World Flyweight Champion in 1931 and 1932.

Perez was denounced to the Occupation authorities and arrested in Paris on September 21, 1943 and detained in the Drancy internment camp before being transported to the German extermination camp of Auschwitz where he was assigned to the Monowitz subcamp to serve as a slave laborer for I.G. Farben at the Buna-Werke. He was killed on January 21, 1945 on the death march from Monowitz to Gleiwitz.His life was made into the film Victor Young Perez in French and German (also known as "Surviving Auschwitz" or "Perez ha'tza'ir").

Étienne Weill-Raynal

Étienne Weill-Raynal (1887-1982) was a French historian, resistant, journalist and Socialist politician. As a scholar following World War I, he specialized in the subject of reparations. When World War II began, he was dismissed from his teaching position and sent to the Drancy internment camp because he was Jewish. He escaped from the internment camp, and joined the National Council of the French Resistance. After the war, he wrote articles in socialist newspapers and served as a member of the National Assembly from 1950 to 1951, representing Oise.

Nazi occupation and organizations
Vichy France
Witness testimony
Righteous Among the Nations

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