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Drancy internment camp

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Transit camp
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B10919, Frankreich, Internierungslager Drancy.jpg
The accommodation block at Drancy with French gendarme on guard
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

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 prisoners remained alive at the camp when the German authorities in Drancy fled as Allied forces advanced and the Swedish Consul-General Raoul Nordling took control of the camp on 17 August 1944, before handing it over to the French Red Cross to care for the survivors.[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]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Concentration Camps in France
  • ✪ Drancy 1941-1944 un camp aux portes de Paris #1
  • ✪ Drancy To Auschwitz
  • ✪ L'ancien camp d'internement de Compiègne
  • ✪ Ruth Klüger - "The Shoah in Fiction"


I can't remember getting out of the bus and going in a cattle train because we were put into a cattle train I can't remember going in the cattle, you know, but I remember being in it because it was so dark and my mother had an envelope and a piece of paper and a pencil and she said to me, Madeleine, because she always called me Madeleine, Madeleine look, when the train slows down, look at the name of the station, tell me and I will write it down for Daddy and after six or seven stations my mother had six or seven names of stations and she sealed the envelope and she gave it to me and she said, "When the train again slows slows down a bit, you just put the envelope through there" no stamp, no nothing and somebody wonderful picked it up and my father got it, and therefore because of the name of the stations he realised we were going to the Camp de Pithiviers They sent me to Drancy and Drancy was a camp a transit camp also guarded by the French the whole administration was Jewish I mean the running of the camp and so on distribution of food. When I arrived in Drancy that was a camp was keeping that was being expended all the time so they needed some people to work and I offered to work hoping that I'll get a better treatment and I did indeed sometimes I got extra bread, sometimes I got extra soup so I was working doing some cement work I wasn't a cement worker but I looked to see what my next door fellow worker did and I did the same thing, I was trying the same thing I worked. We are in the Camp de Pithiviers and there is no food by then my mother is open the tin of sardines and I don't know where the sardines but I inherited the sardine tin and sometimes I could get a bit of water with beans in it I don't think I could even eat it I couldn't eat beans, until these days I can't eat beans baked beans Where did you sleep? we slept in a little what do you call it? Bunks, actually I have a book on the camp of Pithiviers, I think I told you Love Letters From Pithiviers and there is photograph of these bunks in my memory they seem three times as big but in the camp they look quite low a bunk, we were, my mother and I went down, downstairs, and there were people above us There were barracks like everybody slept on wooden beds and to wash there was, there was a whole row all along with how you call.. faucets and we would wash together because ladies, women will be with women and men will be separate we got not that much to eat but in comparison with Auschwitz and Birkenau I think was a paradise I managed to stay in the camp three months three transports left before I was sent to a transport because I was working as a cement worker but after three months somehow the management, the SS, found out that a tunnel was being digged in the camp nobody escaped because it was too early but eventually the people with the risky how this was told we don't know but that was the news so for that reason the SS decided to deport everybody not only the regular transit prisoners, but also the workers because this obviously was was done by people that had access to tools My father must have known some people to to do something I don't know. I don't know, I wish that he would be alive and I could ask him, I have no idea. I probably knew at the time that I didn't know, I don't know what he did or how he did but 18 people were called out and my mother was with her three daughters so that's fourteen people and my mother and her three daughters and we were put on a horse cart and the poor cart was too small for 18 people and the horse could hardly pull us and all the people were looking at us on the fence and first time I felt guilt, I didn't know what guilt was before I felt guilt for leaving the people behind the fence


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 [fr] and Eugène Beaudouin [fr] 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
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]


Jews at Drancy in 1941
Jews at Drancy in 1941
Weill, Théodore Valensi [fr], Azoulay, Albert Ulmo, Cremieux, Eduard Bloch and Pierre Massé held at Drancy in 1941
Weill, Théodore Valensi [fr], 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.[2]


The railway wagon used to carry internees to Auschwitz and now displayed at Drancy
The railway wagon used to carry internees to Auschwitz and now displayed at Drancy
Drancy Internment Camp 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".[7]

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.[8][9]

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


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. ^ a b "Drancy". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  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". Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  7. ^ En 1995, la reconnaissance des « fautes commises par l'Etat » Archived 12 February 2010 at Archive-It, Le Monde, 25 January 2005 (in French)
  8. ^ Swastikas painted on French memorial. Jerusalem Post. 11 April 2009
  9. ^ Des croix gammées tracées au Mémorial de la déportation à Drancy[permanent dead link]. Le Monde, 11 April 2009.

External links

This page was last edited on 19 September 2019, at 02:57
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