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Drancy Internment Camp

The Drancy internment camp of ParisFrance, was used to hold Jews who were later deported to the extermination camps. 65,000 Jews were deported from Drancy, of whom 63,000 were murdered including 6,000 children. Only 2,000 remained alive when Allied forces liberated the camp on 17 August 1944.

Drancy was under the control of the French police until 1943 when administration was taken over by SS and officer Alois Brunner. 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.

Creation of Drancy internment camp La Cité de la Muette apartment complex in Drancy in the 1930s, before its conversion into a Nazi internment camp.

After the 1940 defeat by Germany and the 10 July 1940 vote of full powers to Marshal Philippe Pétain, the Republic was abolished and Vichy France was proclaimed. The Vichy government cooperated withNazi 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 architectsMarcel Lods and Eugène Beaudouinas 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 bitter 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 District 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). Following the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup on July 16 and 17, 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.

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.

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.

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, over 65,000 were sent directly from Drancy to Auschwitz. Only 2,000 survived their captivity.

The camp today Jews at Drancy in 1941 The Shoah Memorial at Drancy by Shlomo Selinger

In 1976, 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 theFrench 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".

On 20 January 2005, arsonists set fire to some railroad freight cars in the former camp; a tract signed "Bin Laden" with an inverted swastikawas 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

Alois Brunner

Alois Brunner 

(born 8 April 1912)

Is an Austrian Nazi war criminal. Brunner wasAdolf Eichmann's assistant, and Eichmann referred to Brunner as his "best man." As commander of the Drancy internment camp outside Paris from June 1943 to August 1944, Brunner is held responsible for sending some 140,000 European Jewsto the gas chambers. Nearly 24,000 of them were deported from the Drancy camp. He was condemned to death in absentia in France in 1954 for crimes against humanity. In 1961 and in 1980, Brunner lost an eye and the fingers of his left hand, respectively, as a result of letter bombs sent to him by Mossad.

In 2003, The Guardian described him as "the world's highest-ranking Nazi fugitive believed still alive." Brunner was last reported to be living in Syria, whose government rebuffed international efforts to locate or apprehend him.

Born in NádkútVasAustria-Hungary (now Rohrbrunn, BurgenlandAustria). He is the son of Joseph Brunner and Ann Kruise. Brunner was a trouble-shooter for the Schutzstaffel (SS) and held the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) when he organized deportations to Nazi concentration camps from Vichy France and Slovakia. He was commander of a train of Jews deported from Vienna to Riga in February 1942. En route Brunner shot and killed the well-known financier Siegmund Bosel, who, although ill, had been hauled out of a Vienna hospital and placed on the train. According to historian Gertrude Schneider, who as a young girl was deported to Riga on the same train, but survived the Holocaust:

Alois Brunner chained Bosel, still in his pajamas, to the platform of the first car -- our car -- and berated him for having been a profiteer. The old man repeatedly asked for mercy; he was very ill, and it was bitterly cold. Finally Brunner wearied of the game and shot him. Afterward, he walked into the car and asked whether anyone had heard anything. After being assured that no one had, he seemed satisfied and left.

He was personally sent by Adolf Eichmann in 1944 to Slovakia to oversee the deportation of Jews. From early 1944 until January 1945, over one million Jews were transported to Auschwitz. Before being named commander of Drancy internment camp near Paris, Brunner deported 43,000 Jews from Vienna and 46,000 from Salonika. In the last days of the Third Reich he managed to deport another 13,500 from Slovakia.

After the war and escape to Syria

In an interview with the German magazine Bunte, in 1985, Brunner describes how he escaped capture by the Allies immediately after the Second World War. The identity of Brunner was apparently mixed up with that of another SS member, Anton Brunner, who was executed for war crimes, instead of Alois, who, like Josef Mengele, lacked the SS blood type tattoo, which prevented him from being detected in an Allied prison camp. Anton Brunner, who also worked in Vienna deporting Jews, was confused after the war with Alois Brunner, even by historians such as Gerald Reitlinger.

Claiming that he "received official documents under a false name from American authorities", Brunner professed he found work as a driver for the United States Army in the period after the war. It has been alleged that Brunner found a working relationship after WWII with theOrganisation Gehlen.

He then fled Germany only in 1954, on a fake Red Cross passport, first to Rome, then Egypt where he worked as a weapons dealer, and then to Syria, where he took the pseudonym of Dr. Georg Fischer. In Syria, he was allegedly hired as a "government advisor" — with some suggesting he was advising the Syrian dictatorship on torture and repression techniques, some dating from his time as an SS torturer. He also allegedly trained Kurdish rebels to operate against Turkey, and shipped arms to Algerian rebels during their war of independence withFrance. Syria has constantly refused entry to French investigators as well as to Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld who spent nearly 15 years bringing the case to court in France. Simon Wiesenthal tried unsuccessfully to trace Brunner's whereabouts.

In his 1980s interview by the German magazine Bunte, Brunner declared that his sole regret was not having murdered more Jews. In a 1987 telephone interview to the Chicago Sun Times, he stated: "The Jews deserved to die. They were garbage, I have no regrets. If I had the chance I would do it again..." He was reported to be living in Damascus under the alias of Dr. Georg Fischer. Although there were unconfirmed reports that Brunner may have died in 1996, he was reportedly sighted in 2001.

In 2011, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the German intelligence service BND had destroyed its file on Brunner in the 1990s, and that remarks in remaining files contain conflicting statements as to whether Brunner had worked for the BND at some point.

Letter bombs

Brunner lost an eye and fingers on his left hand from letter bombs sent to him in 1961 and in 1980 by Israel's intelligence service, Mossad. In December 1999, rumours surfaced saying that he had died in 1996 and had been buried in a cemetery in Damascus. However, German journalists visiting Syria said Brunner was living at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus. According to The Guardian, he was last seen alive by reliable witnesses in 1992, and by journalists in 1996.

Convictions in absentia

Germany and other countries have unsuccessfully requested his extradition. He was twice sentenced to death in absentia in the 1950s; one of those convictions was in France in 1954. In August 1987 an Interpol "red notice" was issued for him. In 1995, German State prosecutors inCologne and Frankfurt posted a €333,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

On 2 March 2001, he was found guilty in absentia by a French court for crimes against humanity, including the arrest and deportation of 345 orphans from the Paris region (which had not been judged in the earlier trials) and was sentenced to life imprisonment. According toSerge Klarsfeld, the trial was largely symbolic - an effort to honour the memories of victims such as Celestine Ajzykowicz (11 years old), Jean Bender (4 years old) and Alain Blumberg, a two-week-old baby kicked to death by an SS guard. Klarsfeld's own father, arrested in 1943, was reportedly one of Brunner's victims.

Recent attempts to locate

In 2004, for an episode titled "Hunting Nazis", the television series Unsolved History used facial recognition software to compare Alois Brunner's official SS photograph with a recent photo of "Georg Fischer", and came up with a match of 8.1 points out of 10, which they claimed was, despite the elapse of over 50 years in aging, equivalent to a match with 95% certainty. Brazilian police are said to be investigating whether a suspect living in the country under an assumed name is actually Alois Brunner. Dep.-Cmdr. Asher Ben-Artzi, the head of Israel's Interpol and Foreign Liaison Section, passed on a Brazilian request for Brunner's fingerprints to Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, but Zuroff could not find any.

In July 2007, the Austrian Justice Ministry declared that they would pay €50,000 for information leading to his arrest and extradition to Austria.

A self described "team of Israelis" who have "hunted down" Nazi war criminals all over the world list him as their second most wanted man, and since the first may have already died, he could very well be their most wanted Nazi war criminal, and if found alive by them, will be brought back to Israel to face charges of crimes against humanitymass murder and membership of an illegal party. In March 2009, the Simon Wiesenthal Center admitted that the possibility of Brunner still being alive was "slim". Despite this reality, he resurfaced in media reports in 2011 as being one of the most wanted men globally whom many insist could still be alive....

Alois Brunner, Death: reports contested.

Please take a good look at these pictures.  Alois Brunner is alive and well, living under the protection of the Syrian goverment.

During the Second World War, Herr Brunner sent more than a 140 000 to Nazi concentration camps.  He was a key operative working for Adolf Eichmann, who was tasked by Heydrich to manage the logistics of the Jewish ghettos and deportations to extermination. It is believed that Brunner is lending his expertise to the Syrian government in exchange for protection.

In the 1980s, Brunner gave a couple of interviews (German magazine BUNTE & Chicago Sun Times).  He expressed his thoughts and feelings regarding the Holocaust.  First, he regretted not murdering more Jews.  Then, “The Jews deserved to die.  If I had the chance I would do it again.”

This bastard will (would) be 96 this year.  That’s an awfully long life for someone who doesn’t deserve it.

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More: Alois Brunner

 


SS Hauptsturmführer Alois Brunner - 
the last leading Nazi still believed to be on the loose and Eichmann's second in command was a key figure in the planning and execution of the Final Solution, the murder of 6 million Jews during World War II. He actively participated in the mass murder and was often sent by Eichmann as a trouble shooter to areas such as France to expedite the killings.
Alois Brunner bears direct responsibility for the deportation to Nazi death camps of 128,500 Jewish men, women and children from Austria, Greece, France, and Slovakia.

The arrest and conviction of Alois Brunner remains the top priority of leading Nazi hunters and war investigators but Brunner has successfully eluded justice. During his many years hiding out reportedly in an apartment on Haddad Street in the Syrian capital of Damascus, he openly assisted the Syrians in establishing their own secret police.

The Syrian authorities have covered and continue to cover Alois Brunner and he may never pay for his crimes. Germany, Austria, Slovakia, France and Poland currently seek his extradition, but the Syrians have been totally uncooperative in response to all these requests.

Alois Brunner was born in Austria in 1912 and joined the Austrian Nazi Party in 1931 at the age of 19. His anti-Semitism was considered to be so extreme that he was swiftly tapped to be Adolf Eichmann’s private secretary. As head of the Nazi’s Jewish affairs office in prewar Vienna, he organized persecution that forced thousands of Jews to flee to other European countries and the United States.

When World War II started, he sent 47,000 Austrian Jews to the KZ camps. After organizing mass roundups in Berlin, he transferred to Greece, where he was responsible for deporting all 43,000 Jews in Salonika within just two months.

In June 1943, he was sent to France to take over the Drancy transit camp near Paris from its French administrators. During 14 months in France, Brunner sent an estimated 25,000 men, women and children to their deaths. Brunner also transported the children of Izieu to Auschwitz.

Alois Brunner 

After WW2 Alois Brunner  found gainful employment courtesy of the CIA and later he escaped to Syria where he became a government adviser. To this day Alois Brunner has successfully evaded capture. He is believed to live in Damascus using the name of his cousin Georg Fischer. German journalists visiting Syria in 1999 said Brunner was living at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus under police protection. He is easily identifiable, having lost an eye and several fingers from letter bombs sent him years ago by French and Israeli security agents.

Brunner was interviewed about 15 years ago in the Austrian news magazine Bunte. He said he did not suffer from a bad conscience for, in his own words, "getting rid of that garbage." His one regret was that he hadn't murdered more Jews.

In 1987 in a telephone interview Alois Brunner told the Chicago Sun Times: The Jews deserved to die. I have no regrets. If I had the chance I would do it again ..

 

The newspaper France-Soir of March 3, 2001, announced the verdict. 
At the top photo, manifestation of the Sons and Daughters of Deported Jews of France. 
Under the banner,  Serge Klarsfeld.

 

Pitchipoi

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.

Drancy Transit Camp

The history of the concentration camps in France is a very difficult and sensitive subject. In 1939, before the Nazis invaded France, the French government had opened camps (like Gurs or Noe) designed to receive the Spanish refugees escaping from the fascist regime of Franco. These camps were guarded by the French police and in the summer 1940, all refugees were handed over the Nazis. They were quickly transferred to various concentration camps in Germany and very few of them survived.

The camp of Drancy was a transit camp located not far from Paris. Like many other detention centres throughout France, Drancy was created by the Vichy government of Philippe Pétain in 1941 and was under the control of the French police until July 3, 1943 when Nazi Germany took day-to-day control as part of the major stepping up at all facilities for the mass exterminations. The camp was opened after a roundup of in Paris Jews in August, 1941, in which over 4,000 Jews were arrested. The French police carried out additional roundups of Jews throughout the war. The conditions of life were extremely difficult, due to neglect of personal, ordinary human needs, adequate food, unsanitary conditions, and over-crowding.


Drancy transit camp , outside of Paris, where Jews were confined until they were deported to death camps.

The camp at Drancy was in a multi-storey complex designed to hold 700 people, but at its peak in it held more than 7,000. There is documented evidence and testimony recounting the brutality of the French guards in Drancy and the brutal conditions imposed on the people including the small children who, upon their arrival, were immediately separated from their parents. It is to Drancy that SS First Lieutenant Klaus Barbie transported Jewish children that he captured in a raid of a children’s home, before deporting them to Auschwitz, where they were all killed. In December 1941, 40 prisoners from Drancy were executed in retaliation for a French attack on German police officers.

Proof exists that more than 3,000 prisoners died in the French camps from lack of medical care or starvation. During the nights of July 16 and July 17, 1942, an incident occurred, which is now called “La Rafle du Vel d’Hiv” (The Great Raid of the Vel d’Hiv) - the Velodrome d’Hiver was a stadium in Paris designed for bike races. (The French destroyed the stadium after the war).

This police operation had been organized after several discussions between the government of Petain and the Nazi occupation administration. The code name of this operation was “Vent printanier” (Spring Wind) and all the arrests were made by the French police under the control of French police officials. Originally, only the Jews who were older than age 16 had to be arrested. It was under the proposal of Prime Minister Laval that all the children were arrested.

More than 12,800 (3,031 men, 5,802 women and 4,051 children aged between 2 and 12) were transferred to the Velodrome d’Hiver. The children were kept there for 5 miserable days without any food or medical care and then they were transferred to Drancy, Beaune-la-Rolande or Pithiviers. The children were separated from their parents by the French police immediately after their arrival in Drancy. The parents were transported to Auschwitz and gassed. The children stayed in Drancy, sometimes for weeks, without any proper care or adequate food. Several babies and very young children died in Drancy due to the lack of care and the brutality of the French guards. Finally, they were all transported to Auschwitz and gassed upon their arrival. More than 6,000 Jewish children from all the regions of France were arrested and transported to their deaths between July 17 and September 30, 1942.

There were several other camps like Drancy in France: Noe, Gurs, Recebedou ...

During more than 40 years, the French Government refused to admit the responsibility of the regime of Petain and the French police in the deportation of the French Jews. However, on July 16, 1995, president Jacques Chirac, in a speech, recognized the responsibility of the French State, and in particular of the French police which organized the July 1942 “La Rafle du Vel d’Hiv”, for seconding the “criminal folly of the occupying country”.

 

Pages from camp hospital. Red crosses in the last columns mean death of patients

French Rail Sorry for Deporting Jews to Nazi Camps

French rail sorry for deporting Jews to Nazi camps A group of deportees still wearing their concentration camp uniforms are greeted by locals on their arrival back in Paris in 1945 after being liberated by Allied forces in Germany. France's state-owned rail company SNCF has expressed remorse for hauling thousands of Jews to their deaths in Nazi camps, after US lawmakers threatened its chances of winning lucrative contracts Picture taken in 1942 shows Jewish deportees in the Drancy transit camp, their last stop before the German concentration camps. France's state-owned rail company SNCF has expressed remorse for hauling thousands of Jews to their deaths in Nazi camps, after US lawmakers threatened its chances of winning lucrative contracts Picture taken in 1942 shows Jews being loaded into rail cars at the transit camp in Drancy before being deported to concentration camps in Germany. France's state-owned rail company SNCF has expressed remorse for hauling thousands of Jews to their deaths in Nazi camps, after US lawmakers threatened its chances of winning lucrative contracts

AFP - France's state-owned rail company SNCF has expressed remorse for hauling thousands of Jews to their deaths in Nazi camps, after US lawmakers threatened its chances of winning lucrative contracts.

Until recently, the company has insisted it had been forced by France's World War II German occupiers to help deport 75,000 French Jews to the gas chambers, and noted that 2,000 of its own rail workers were executed.

But, with SNCF and its main train-builder Alstom seeking work in the United States, the company's chairman Guillaume Pepy earlier this month met in Florida with elected representatives and Jewish community groups to express his regret.

Pepy told them he wished to express "his profound pain and regret for the consequences of acts ... carried out under order".

But this time, according to a copy of his statement issued by SNCF, Pepy appeared to go further.

He quoted a speech made by France's then president Jacques Chirac at a 1995 memorial.

"These dark hours will stain our history forever, and are an insult to our history and tradition. Yes, the criminal insanity of the occupier was seconded by the French, by the French state," Chirac said then.

"As an arm of the French state, SNCF adopts these words as its own and accepts the pain that they reflect for the victims, survivors and their families, who suffered because of our role in the war," Pepy added.

SNCF also has an English-language website, which seeks to explain its role in the Holocaust:http://www.sncfhighspeedrail.com/heritage. SNCF archives were opened to Americans in 1996.

As recently as August, Pepy said that he took concerns over the company's role "very seriously" -- but stuck to the company line that it had been "acting under the Nazi yoke".

But the issue has been taken up by US lawmakers, and with big contracts like that of Florida's proposed Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail line in the balance, SNCF has now apparently decided to go a little further.

Had it not, it might have found itself excluded from the US market.

In California, where SNCF is eyeing another high-speed project, state assemblyman Bob Blumenfield sought to pass a law requiring companies bidding on the contract to reveal their role in prisoner transport between 1942 and 1944. But Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the legislation.

Florida's Congressman Ron Klein, another Democrat, has proposed a similar law at the federal level. Neither text mentions SNCF by name, but both clearly target the firm seeking to export France's world class TGV technology.

With deals worth tens of billions of euros (dollars) at stake, former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, chairman of the French Senate's Franco-US friendship committee, has sought to defuse the row.

He told his US colleagues that French rail workers had no choice but to collaborate.

Some listeners have been unimpressed however.

"If they want to issue an apology, they should issue an apology directly to the survivors," said Rositta Kenigsberg, executive vice president of the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in Florida.

"Who are they issuing the apology to?" she asked.

"They are spending so much money coming here, paying a PR campaign, they are talking with everybody except the people directly involved. I don't understand."

Even in France, campaigners for Holocaust remembrance have criticised the timing of these statements.

"It's an obvious step towards establishing historical truth," said Alain Lipietz, a former member of the European parliament who sued SNCF on behalf of four family members hauled to their deaths on board French trains.

"But what's regrettable is the fact that he did what he did in the United States solely to improve his position in a contract negotiation, and not in order to ensure that it doesn't happen again one day," he said.

On the other hand, France's senior human rights official Francois Zimeray has accused protectionist politicians in the United States of exploiting the issue to exclude French products from US markets.

"I encourage SNCF to face up to this page in its history, and to break down any myths," he added, while insisting that France had acted in an exemplary way in terms of Holocaust remembrance and reparations.

Leo Bretholz Born: 1921, Vienna, Austria

After the Germans annexed Austria in 1938, Leo attempted to flee. He eventually reached Belgium. In 1940 he was deported to the St.-Cyprien camp in France but escaped. In 1942 Leo was smuggled into Switzerland but was arrested and sent back to France, this time to the Rivesaltes and Drancy camps. He and a friend escaped from a train deporting them to Auschwitz in Poland. Leo joined the French underground in 1943. He arrived in the United States in 1947.

We arrived in Drancy and were checked in. The checking-in process in Drancy was...well, a first step in a, in a real dehumanization process. Number one, when we arrived there, the faces that we saw, the...the eyes with queries in them, and a lot of questions, "Where are you coming from? How is it outside? What did you...what do you think?" and "What news do you have?" Everybody gathering about a new group of arrivals because they may, they may have something to convey and we went through a barrack process of checking in which would also mean taking your watch away, your rings, certain belongings, money. And another psychological ploy, giving you a receipt for the things that they took from you, with the admonition, "Don't lose that, because you will never get them back. That is your receipt that has a number on it." It had a number on it. Just imagine that.

Ernest Koenig Born:1917, Vienna, Austria

Ernest was studying in Paris, France, until February 1939, when he returned to Brno, Czechoslovakia. The Germans occupied the latter region soon thereafter, but Ernest managed to return to France. He joined a Czech unit in the French army from October 1939 until the fall of France in May 1940.

He made his way to unoccupied France, where he taught for a while. He then went to Grenoble, and again taught, but was arrested because he did not have the appropriate papers. Ernest was interned in Le Vernet camp for two years. He was deported to the Drancy camp, to Upper Silesia in September 1942, and then to Laurahuette (a subcamp of Auschwitz where forced laborers worked in mines and furnaces).

He was in Laurahuette until August 1943, when he was sent to the Blechhammer subcamp of Auschwitz. After liberation, Ernest eventually made his way to the United States.

We were put into rooms which were full of rotten straw. It was rotting. It was wet and rotting, and there we were waiting, and, of course, uh, being very much concerned and preoccupied what's going to happen. It was a morbid situation already, you know, under the rotten straw and with children and, uh, old people and the complete, uh, the complete helplessness and the complete lack of, uh, of...we didn't know what's going to happen, to happen to us, but we knew, of course, we are now in the clutches of the German, and at night we heard sometimes shooting from other parts of the camp. We didn't know what it means. I remember I, I went to one of the barbed wires and saw, and tried to see whether I can get...can get out but it was out of question, and then after three or four days there, uh, we were ordered to go down...down...we, we, we were, we were upstairs, I remember. We had to go downstairs, you know, to the, to the platform and on the platform there was already the SS and with, with their customary politeness, shouting and beating and, and, uh, sending us into the...into the railroad cars.

Michael von Hoppen Waldhorn Born: Tysmenichany, Poland May 25, 1889

 

Michael was born in a village in the southeastern part of Galicia, an Austrian province before it became a part of Poland in 1918. Raised by Jewish parents, Michael served as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army until the end of World War I. After the war, Michael and his Hungarian-Jewish wife settled in Paris, where he became known as Michel. They raised three children there.

1933-39: Michael's family was better off in Paris than they had been in eastern Europe. In Paris, Michael was a successful businessman with two dry-goods stores, and his children had better educational opportunities. The family also felt sheltered in Paris from the antisemitism that was raging in Germany.

1940-42: Germany defeated France in 1940. Because Michael was not a French citizen, he was in danger of being immediately deported with other foreign-born Jews. In 1941 he lost his stores and market stall and was arrested and imprisoned in Drancy for six months. In July 1942, one month after Jews were required to wear a Jewish star in public, Michael was grabbed on the street by the French police and sent back to Drancy. Six days later, the Germans loaded Michael and other Polish-born Jews into a cattle train. Michael was gassed shortly after arriving in Auschwitz on . He was 53 years old.

 

Nadine Schatz Born: September 10, 1930, Boulogne-Billancourt, France

Nadine was the daughter of immigrant Jewish parents. Her Russian-born mother settled in France following the Russian Revolution of 1917. Nadine was born in Boulogne-Billancourt, a city on the outskirts of Paris known for its automobile factories. She was fluent in Russian and French.

1933-39: Nadine attended elementary school in Paris. Her mother, Ludmilla, taught piano, and her Russian grandmother, Rosalia, lived with them. After France declared war on Germany in September 1939, Nadine's mother moved the family to Saint-Marc-sur-Mer, a small village on the Brittany coast, hoping it would be safer. There, Nadine resumed her schooling.

1940-42: Victorious German troops reached Saint-Marc-sur-Mer in June 1940. After France surrendered to Germany, the Germans remained in Brittany. Nadine and her mother moved to the nearby city of Nantes. But local French officials frequently cooperated with the occupying Germans to help enforce anti-Jewish laws. In 1942 Nadine and her mother were arrested by French police. Nadine was separated from her mother and deported to the Drancy transit camp east of Paris.

Twelve-year-old Nadine was deported to Auschwitz on September 23, 1942. She was gassed shortly after arriving.

Emma Freund Born: October 14, 1893, Kippenheim bei Lahr, Germany

The second oldest of six children, Emma was raised by observant Jewish parents in a small town in southwestern Germany and they settled in the industrial city of Mannheim after World War I. There she had two children, a son in 1924, and a daughter in 1930. Emma helped her husband in his business.

1933-39: After the Nazis came to power, Emma's husband lost his business. Her sister Linnchen emigrated to South Africa, and the Nazis deported her brother Arthur to Dachau. When the Nazis burned down the local synagogue and Jewish school in November 1938, Emma and her husband decided to send their 14-year-old son to Britain. They remained behind; her husband felt that the Nazis would not harm them any more than they already had.

1940-42: On October 22, 1940, the Freunds were ordered to prepare to leave Mannheim and to assemble near the train station. They disobeyed the order and tried to hide with a Jewish family living outside of Mannheim, but were discovered. The family was deported to Gurs, a camp in southern France. Emma and her daughter were separated from her husband and then transferred to yet another camp, Rivesaltes. Emma fell ill, but was relieved when a Jewish children's aid society managed to get her daughter out of the camp.

Emma was transferred to the Drancy transit camp in August 1942. She was deported to Auschwitz on August 14 and gassed upon arrival. She was 48 years old.

Robert Freund Born: October 3, 1893, Feudenheim, Germany

he second oldest of five children, Robert was raised by Jewish parents in a suburb of Mannheim. He was wounded while serving in the German army during World War I. Married after the war and making his home in the industrial city of Mannheim, Robert and his wife Emma raised two children, while he made a living as an interior decorator.

1933-39: The Nazis came to power in 1933; Robert's children were forced out of public school and he lost his business. When the Nazis burned down the local synagogue and Jewish school in 1938, he and his wife decided to send their 14-year-old son to Britain. They thought their daughter was too young to be sent abroad. Robert believed the Nazis' persecution would not get worse, and decided to remain in Mannheim. War began in 1939.

1940-42: On October 22, 1940, the Freunds were ordered to prepare to leave Mannheim and to assemble near the train station. Robert disobeyed and tried to hide his wife and daughter with a Jewish family living outside of Mannheim, but they were discovered. In front of his family, Robert was beaten. When he asked them to get it over with and just kill him, the beating stopped. The Freunds were deported to Gurs, a camp in southern France where Robert was separated from his wife and daughter.

Robert was transferred to the Drancy transit camp in August 1942 and was deported to Auschwitz on August 14. He was gassed upon arrival.

Witnesses

A number of accounts were written while the memories were still fresh.

Noël Calef, who was detained at the Drancy camp throughout the second half of 1941, described the first period of camp functioning, which was strongly affected by famine and disease. He wrote of his experience between 1942 and 1943, and went on to become a novelist and cinema screenwriter, in particular for Louis Malle’s 1958 film entitled Ascensceur pour l’échafaud, released under the title Frantic in the United States and Lift to the Scaffold in the United Kingdom (Calef, 1997).

Other witnesses, who died during or after deportation, left their diaries behind at Drancy. Serge Klarsfeld published those of the lawyer François Montel, who was the Jewish head of the camp administrative office from January to April 1942, as well as those of Georges Kohn, his successor until June 1943.

Georges Wellers, who had trained as a chemist and was a pioneer of the Contemporary Jewish Documentation Centre (Centre de documentation juive contemporaine), wrote the first great work dedicated to the Drancy camp (Wellers, 1973), basing it on an autobiographical account.

Despite editors’ cold feet, letters and journals were still being unearthed in the last decade of the 20th century. This was the case for the diary that dentist Benjamin Schatzman kept during detention, before his deportation to Auschwitz in September 1942. He was the father of Evry Schatzman, founder of the French School of Astrophysics (École française d’astrophysique) (Schatzman, 2005).

The problem of the existence of an interment camp at the very heart of a town in the Paris area raises questions about the attitude of the surrounding population, about what they heard or saw, their reactions throughout the occupation and their memories of the events. No study on the subject has ever been attempted.

Even though the camp was essentially closed to outside observers, the local population of Drancy could not have been unaware of the enormous transfers of people generated by the almost daily arrests and arrivals, and by the transfer of tens of thousands of detainees to the Bobigny train station. In summer 1943, the managers and workers of the Lainé company (which is still conducting business in the Paris region today) used their skills for the modernization of the camp.

The problem raised by the camp’s visibility in the urban environment was recently dealt with by director Marcel Bluwal, whose film Le plus beau pays du monde (The Happiest Place on Earth) was released in France in 1998.

The film tells the true story of the actor Robert-Hughes Lambert, who was interned in the Drancy camp for his homosexuality in 1943, as he was playing the lead role in Louis Cuny’s film Mermoz. In the last scenes to be shot, he was replaced by the young actor Henri Vidal, who later married Michèle Morgan. Lambert agreed to help synchronize the soundtrack with the picture for the final scenes of the film, before his deportation.

A truck from Buttes-Chaumont (in the Northeast of Paris) came to the Drancy camp, and a sound engineer brought a boom microphone which was held through the barbed-wire fence. The film Mermoz was completed and released on November 3, 1943 in Paris cinemas, and the magazine Vedettes featured a portrait of Robert-Hugues Lambert on its November 6 front page; his internment at Drancy was deliberately covered up. Marcel Bluwal’s 1998 film, based on the producer André Tranché’s account, demonstrates that the frontiers between the detainees’ world and the outside was relatively porous, due to the corruption of thegendarmes responsible for guarding the outside of the camp.

The families and close friends of some prisoners were able to send them messages and obtain answers, but also to communicate with them by signals sent from the upper floors of buildings situated in the vicinity of the La Muette complex.

Among Strangers — A family story

By Marietta Pritchard My book, Among Strangers, is a personal history covering several generations of my family beginning with their origins in Central Europe, and focusing especially on my grandfather, Ernst Fürth.

Ernst was a wealthy industrialist who left Austria after the Nazi takeover, mistakenly thinking he could find safety in France. But he was caught in the Nazi net and eventually imprisoned at Drancy, a camp near Paris. During his time of exile, he wrote to his daughters in the U.S. -- my mother and aunt -- as often as he could.

When my mother made me a gift of two of his letters, I had no idea what kind of a journey I was about to embark on. The gift opened the door to several years of work, during which my mother and I explored the contents of about 200 pieces of correspondence — some of which had never reached their destination. They describe an ever-narrowing existence, beginning in confident hope and ending in sorrow and desperation.

Ernst Fürth’s story is central to Among Strangers, but intertwined with it are other narratives. A grandmother’s ring and the vexed tale of a building in Vienna introduce the subject of inheritance. Fundamental questions of identity are raised as my immigrant parents make the transition from a high bourgeois life in Budapest to a newly “Americanized” one; and I discover my Jewish roots after a Catholic upbringing.

The book tells of inheritance and loss, of war and peace, of exile and rootedness, of the grief of separation and the resilience of the human spirit. Posted by Marietta Pritchard  Ernst Fürth's last passport
Posted by Marietta Pritchard  When my father returned from visiting Vienna in 1938 after the Nazi takeover,
he went directly to the American Consulate to apply for immigration status.
Posted by Marietta Pritchard     The building at Schmidgasse 14 is the former Sanatorium Fürth.  The Austrians agreed to return it to our family in 2005.
Posted by Marietta Pritchard  I visited Schmidgasse 14 in Vienna in 2007
 after the American government moved out.
Posted by Marietta Pritchard  Before the war and the dispersal of the family, my grandfather
 and my sister enjoyed a walk in his home town of Susice,
 in what was then Czechoslovakia. Posted by Marietta Pritchard  My grandmother, Elsa Roheim Furth, in a 1917 portrait
 by Clemens von Pausinger.
Posted by Marietta Pritchard   My grandfather's last cards from the "transit" camp at Drancy
 bear the marks of the Nazi censors.
Posted by Marietta Pritchard   New immigrants: My mother, my sister Doris
 and me, dressed for church, about 1941.

Rosalia Wourgaft Schatz

Rosalia Wourgaft Schatz, Born: Tulchin, Ukraine, May 25, 1875

November 4, 2010. 

Rosalia was raised by Jewish parents in the small, predominantly Jewish industrial city of Tulchin in southwestern Ukraine.  She married Aaron Schatz and together they raised four children in the city of Odessa.  In 1919, when her family was grown, Rosalia and her daughter Ludmilla, emigrated via Romania to France after Aaron was killed during the Russian civil war.

1933-39:

 Rosalia settled in Bagneux, a suburb of Paris.  She spoke only Russian and Yiddish and found Paris to be a different world from the one she had known in Ukraine.  Ludmilla, now married, lived nearby with her daughter, Nadine.  When France declared war on Germany in September 1939, her daughter and granddaughter left for the Brittany coast, but Rosalia remained in Paris.

1940-42: 

German troops occupied Paris in June 1940.  For six months, the Germans took no drastic actions against the citizens, and Rosalia felt in no immediate danger.  But in September 1940, the Germans began to impose anti-Jewish measures and by June 1942, in preparation for mass deportations, they ordered Jews to wear a yellow star.  Rosalia was arrested by French police working with the Germans during mass arrests of foreign Jews in the summer of 1942.

Jewish women wearing the required yellow badges.  Paris, France, June 8, 1942.

Rosalia was deported to Auschwitz via the Drancy transit camp on September 28, 1942.  She was gassed on arrival, at the age of 67.

 

Postcard

Postcard showing the address of the transit camp in Drancy, Paris

A Plaque that Describes the Escape Tunnel.

Plaque

This plaque is in homage to the victims of racist persecution, antisemitism and crimes against humanity and is a pledge that the French Republic will never forget. 

Drancy and Compiègne

Drancy and Compiègne were no real concentration camps but transit camps. Most French victims of the nazis went through Drancy and Compiègne on their way to Germany and the final solution.
Drancy camp was an unfinished block of flats that was to house French policemen and their families. The buildings were requisitionned by the German army on 14 june 1940 and the unfinished part was walled up.

The first prisoners arrived on 20 august 1941. From 1941 to 1944, 80 000 people, mostly Jews, went through Drancy or Compiègne before being sent to Auschwitz or to another extermination camp. Young Georges Charpak, who was later to become a famous French physicist was detained from 11 to 18 june 1944 in Compiègne before being deported to Dachau

      The camp was first controlled by the French Police, which plainly shows how far the Vichy puppet government worked hand in hand with the nazis to exterminate Jews. The SS later took over the administration of the camp until they withdrew from the area on 17 august 1944.

The Drancy Memorial:
3 stone blocks make the hebrew letter SCHIN. The two lateral blocks symbolize the Gate of Death. The central block features 10 people - the required number for prayer.
A man and a woman in the foreground stand for Suffering and Dignity Two overturned heads at the bottom symbolize death.
Two flights of 7 narrowing steps lead to the Gate of Death. They symbolize the ascent of the victims' souls.

      Although prisoners didn't make a long stay in Drancy, some resistance acts were carried out in the camp. A tunnel was built by inmates belonging to a resistantce group for escape purposes but it was discovered by the SS. It was 38 m long and was to open out 1.5 m beyond camp walls. 14 members of the digging team were arrested and tortured. They were deported on 20 november 1943. 12 of them managed to jump from the train and enlist into other resistance groups.

      19 prisoners escaped from Compiègne in the night of 21 to 22 june 1942. Liliane Gerenstein, who was 11, was arrested in Izieu near Lyons on 6 april 1944 by Klaus Barbie's men, and was deported to Drancy with the other Jewish children who had been gathered and hidden from the nazis in that home. She died in Auschwitz. The following letter was found in Izieu after the arrests.

My god, how kind and good you are. Your kindness and Goodness is beyond counting power... God? after that I can say I'll never forget you. I'll always think about you, even when my life comes to its end. You can rely on that. You are for me something I can't express, so good you are. You can believe me. God? I had a beautiful life before, I was spoilt, I had nice things the others didn't have, and that was all of your making. God? I will only ask one more thing from you: LET MY PARENTS COME BACK, MY POOR PARENTS, PROTECT THEM (even more than myself) LET THEM COME BACK AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, LET THEM COME BACK ONCE AGAIN. I could really say I had such a good mum and such a good dad. I trust you so much that I thank you in advance.

A Telegram From the German

Letter

Deportation & Extermination

Lyon – Montluc Prison    The 44 children and 7 adults arrested at the Izieu home were imprisoned on 6th and 7th April 1944 at the Montluc prison in Lyon .

At the Barbie trial in 1987, helper and sole survivor Léa Feldblum stated “The children, they were made to sit on the floor and the adults were standing with their hands tied high on the wall”. She confirmed that the adults and teenagers were interrogated, but the children were not.

On 7th April, they were all taken by tram to Lyon-Perrache railway station and transferred by rail convoy to the Drancy transit camp. Léa Feldblum was in a compartment with the smallest children. She saw teenagers Théo Reis and Arnold Hirsch pass along the platform wearing handcuffs. Drancy Camp  

 

The children and adults entered the Drancy camp on 8th April 1944. They were recorded as numbers 19185 to 19235 on the camp entry register. Léa Feldblum, who had false identity papers in the name of Marie-Louise Decoste, revealed her Jewish identity. She wanted to stay with the children.

They were all deported in different rail convoys between April and June 1944.   Auschwitz   On 13th April 1944, 34 of the Izieu children and 4 of the helpers were deported from Drancy to Auschwitz-Birkenau in rail convoy 71.

After a 3-day journey in inhuman conditions, they drew up at theJudenrampe (Jews’ platform), where “selection” was performed. The children were sent to the gas chambers along with Eva and Moïse Reifman. Their daughter Suzanne Reifman and Léa Feldblum were sent to the work gangs.

Suzanne heard her son Claude crying and decided to join him in the other queue. Léa Feldblum entered Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Her forearm was branded with the number 78620 and she was used as a guinea-pig for Nazi medical experiments. She was still alive when the camp was liberated in January 1945.  

The 8 other Izieu children and 3 helpers were deported in rail convoys 72 on 29th April, 74 on 20th May, 75 on 30th May and 76 on 30th June 1944.

They were all murdered on arrival at Birkenau.  

Miron Zlatin and two teenagers, Théo Reis and Arnold Hirsch, were deported to Estonia in rail convoy 73.

Leaving Drancy on 15th May 1944, this rail convoy was made up of only men fit and old enough to work. They were shot by the SS in the Tallin fortress during the summer of 1944.

 

Lettre de Suzanne Reifman à Sabine Zlatin, 13 avril 1944 (Bnf)

Mot de Miron Zlatin adressé à Sabine, camp de Drancy (BnF)

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