The 47 suitcases seized by police in a private residence at Villeneuve at the Seine Assize Court during the trial of French mass murderer Dr Marcel Petiot. The cases contain clothes which were identified by relatives of some of his victims. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
The Monster of Rue Le Sueur
Meet the French doctor who promised Jews safe passage from Nazis, only to rob and murder them
To all who knew him, he was the most devoted, benevolent doctor in Nazi-occupied Paris. Dr Marcel Petiot provided free care for the poor and risked his life helping persecuted Jews flee to safety.
Or so everyone thought – until locals in his affluent neighbourhood reported a foul stench from his home and thick black smoke pouring out of his chimney in March 1944.
Nazi-occupied Paris was a terrible place to be in the waning days of World War Two, with Jews, Resistance fighters and ordinary citizens all hoping to escape. Disappearances became so common they often weren’t followed up.
And one man used the lawlessness for his own terrible purposes, killing perhaps as many as 60 people.
Petiot’s criminal career stretched from his teenage years to his mid-life, and ran parallel to a successful military, political, and medical career. He was a real life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The inherent grisliness of murder makes it hard — if not impossible — to describe any murderer as “better” or “worse” than another. Still, Marcel André Henri Félix Petiot was truly superlative in his horror, mainly because of the circumstances and motivations behind his acts: He promised safety and freedom to those leaving Nazi-occupied France, only to strip them of their possessions and lives.
Despite his infamy in France, many elsewhere have never heard his story. As with many serial killers, internal struggle marked much of Pétiot’s early life.
Born on January 17th, 1897, he was the son of a civil servant, and his uncle, Gaston Petiot, was a professor of philosophy at the College of Auxerre. From childhood he showed signs of violence, after he strangled a cat after plunging its legs in boiling water.
However, he showed great intelligence, at 5 years old he was reading like a 10-year-old child. He then was found distributing obscene images when he was eight. Interned at St. Anne for a psychiatric disorder, his mother died when he was 12, he was then subsequently sent to several schools for discipline, but exhibited severe behavioural problems in school and was expelled several times before completing his education.
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