I have often wondered how many murders have been unsolved because of World War 2?
And one would also have to wonder how many serial killers were active during the war years. I reckon some may have just joined the SS. However there were several ‘civilian’ serial killers at large during WW2.
Nazi-occupied Paris was a terrible place to be during the waning days of the War. With Jews, Resistance fighters and ordinary citizens all hoping to escape. Disappearances became so common they often weren’t followed up.
One man exploited this situation for his own evil satisfaction and greed.
Marcel Petiot was a respected doctor in France until his horrific murders were uncovered during World War II. Though perceived as gentle, kind, and generous by those who thought they knew him, he in fact only posed as a liberator for Jews hoping to escape occupied France to find sanctuary in South America. Insisting that these hopefuls bring their possessions to him for safe keeping and submit to an injection that would keep them safe from foreign diseases, Petiot instead killed his victims and kept their possessions amounting in the end to thousands, if not millions, of dollars worth of furniture, clothing, furs, and jewelry.
Petiot was unusually intelligent as a child but exhibited severe behavioral problems in school and was expelled several times before completing his education. At age 17 he was arrested for mail theft but was released after a judge determined that he was mentally unfit to stand trial. In 1917, while serving in the French army during World War I, he was tried for stealing army blankets but found not guilty by reason of insanity. Despite his mental state, he was returned to the front, where he suffered a mental breakdown. He was eventually discharged for abnormal behaviour, for which some of his examiners said he should be institutionalized. Despite his history of instability, Petiot then enrolled in school and eventually obtained a medical degree in 1921.
Petiot’s first murder victim might have been Louise Delaveau, an elderly patient’s daughter with whom Petiot had an affair in 1926. Delaveau disappeared in May of that year, and neighbors later said they had seen Petiot load a trunk into his car. Police investigated but eventually dismissed her case as a runaway.
That same year, Petiot ran for mayor of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne and hired somebody to disrupt a political debate with his opponent. He won, and while in office embezzled town funds. The following year, Petiot married Georgette Lablais, the 23-year-old daughter of a wealthy landowner and butcher inSeignelay. Their son Gerhardt was born in April 1928.
The embezzlement discovered by his constituents, and they reported him to the Prefect of Yonne Département. In August 1931, he was suspended from his position as mayor.
Only a month after he was removed as mayor of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, he won a seat on the general council for the Yonne district .He was the youngest man to ever sit in that office, at the time.. During his time on the council, he was charged with the theft of electric power from Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. He was fined and lost his seat on the council, and moved to Paris.
After the 1940 German defeat of France, French citizens were drafted for forced labor in Germany. Petiot provided false medical disability certificates to people who were drafted. He also treated the illnesses of workers who had returned. In July 1942, he was convicted of over prescribing narcotics, even though two addicts who would have testified against him had disappeared. He was fined 2,400 francs.
After paying a fine, he then took on the alias of Dr. Eugène and set up a false escape network for Resistance fighters, Jews and criminals looking to escape the Gestapo. He claimed that his network, Fly-Tox, worked in conjunction with Argentinian authorities to safely transport people to South America without the knowledge of the German invaders. He had had three accomplices: Raoul Fourrier, Edmond Pintard, and René-Gustave Nézondet.
He claimed that he could arrange a passage to Argentina or elsewhere in South America through Portugal, for a price of 25,000 francs per person. His accomplices, directed victims to “Dr. Eugène”, including mainly Jews, Resistance fighters, but also ordinary criminals. Once victims were in his control, Petiot told them that Argentine officials required all entrants to the country to be inoculated against disease, and with this excuse injected them with cyanide. He then took all their valuables and disposed of the bodies.
It was the Gestapo that first became suspicious of him. However, they thought that he was a member of the Resistance and was assisting Jews to escape. They apprehended all three of his accomplices and tortured them for information.
While the Gestapo did not learn anything about the Resistance, as Fourrier, Pintard, and Nézondet had nothing to tell them, they did reveal that “Dr. Eugène” was Marcel Petiot.
On March 11, 1944, Petiot’s neighbours told the authorities that there was a foul stench in the area. They were also informed of the large amounts of smoke that often came out of the chimney of the house. The police discovered a coal stove in the basement of his house, as well as the quicklime pit. They also found human remains and properties of his victims.
At first, Petiot had dumped the bodies of his victims in the Seine, but he later destroyed the bodies by submerging them in quicklime or by incinerating them.
In the subsequent months, Petiot evaded capture by staying with his friends. He adopted a new pseudonym, “Henri Valeri”, during the liberation of Paris and enlisted in the French Forces of the Interior (FFI). He was eventually captured on 31 October 1944 at a Paris Métro station.
Petiot went on trial on 19 March 1946, facing 135 criminal charges. René Floriot acted for the defense, against a team consisting in state prosecutors and twelve civil lawyers hired by relatives of Petiot’s victims. Petiot taunted the prosecuting lawyers, and claimed that various victims had been collaborators or double agents, or that vanished people were alive and well in South America under new names.
The extensive coverage of the Petiot affair soon escalated into a full-blown media circus. Newspapers dubbed the doctor the Butcher of Paris, Scalper of the Etoile, the monster of rue Le Sueur, the Demonic Ogre, and Doctor Satan. One of the first and more popular sobriquets was the Modern Bluebeard. Later, other names would be proposed for the murder suspect, from the Underground Assassin to the Werewolf of Paris.
He admitted to killing just nineteen of the twenty-seven victims found in his house, and claimed that they were Germans and collaborators – part of a total of 63 “enemies” killed. Floriot attempted to portray Petiot as a Resistance hero, but the judges and jurors were unimpressed. Petiot was convicted of 26 counts of murder, and sentenced to death.It was estimated that he netted 200,000( I believe an equivalent of $2,000,000} francs from his ill-gotten gains. He was charged with murder for profit.
On 25 May, Petiot was beheaded, after a stay of a few days due to a problem in the release mechanism of the guillotine.
It is estimated he killed 60 people, many of them were French Jews who had been hiding and hoped to try to escape to South America. It wasn’t the Nazis who murdered him but a French Doctor pretending to be a resistance fighter.
He was known throughout Paris as a freedom fighter who would help smuggle away anyone being hunted by the Nazis.
Yet it turns out he preyed on their hopes and dreams and murdered them.
The irony is that it was the Gestapo who stopped the killing. Although the could not find anything on him, it must have been clear to Petiot that he would remain under suspicion
(initially posted on July 13,2016 under the Title ‘Marcel Petiot-“Doctor Satan” ‘)
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