In the "Waiting Room" of Drancy
After German troops invaded Paris, the shell construction of the ‘Cité de la Muette’ housing complex in Drancy was temporarily used to incarcerate prisoners of war. As a result of a raid carried out in Paris in August 1941 Jews were also imprisoned here.
Once the first deportations to Eastern Europe began in March 1942, the camp, under the leadership of the French administration, eventually developed into a transit camp of the “final solution” in France. People who had been arrested from both the occupied and “free” zones of France were initially brought to Drancy and then deported within a few days of their arrival. Two thirds of the incarcerated Jews were not French citizens.
In June 1943, the camp was handed over to German command. Alois Brunner, a close colleague of Adolf Eichmann, was sent to France where he made Drancy his centre of command. The running of the camp was reshaped to follow the model of the concentration camp.
Out of the 75,000 Jews deported from France between March 1942 and August 1944 around 63,000 had been held in Drancy.
Jewish inmates in the central courtyard of the camp in autumn 1941. At the windows others are waiting for their turn to be able to move about outside. From the summer of 1942 this square was also used to congregate arrivals and internees selected for deportation.
The camp building, initially intended as a social housing project, was a shell construction. It can be seen in this photograph that there was no proper flooring. For this propaganda photo, taken in 1942, the inmates were made to look happy in their makeshift accommodation.
As a result of the Vél’ d’hiv’ raids on the 16th and 17th of July 1942, women and children were also brought to Drancy – the artist Jane Levy was among them. She drew scenes depicting the everyday life of the imprisoned women – this one is a self-portrait. On the 31st of July 1943, she was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and murdered.
“The buses drive into the camp. […] The new arrivals get out. They are foreigners: Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Poles, coming from the Gurs and Poitiers camps. […] You can see that these people have become used to internment. Their luggage is robust, their backpacks are strapped tightly to the body. Their clothes are washed-out, damp, faded in all the shades of furrowed earth. […] How many camps have they seen before they ended up here? […] They can obey, they can line up. […] Those people from Gurs must have had it hard!”
In his diary, the imprisoned illustrator, Georges Horan-Korainsky, described the arrival of a transport from Gurs on the 7th of August 1942. A large proportion of the arrivals were deported with the 17th Transport from Drancy to Auschwitz-Birkenau shortly afterwards.