Marcel Petiot - Fraudulent Escape Network

Fraudulent Escape Network

Petiot's most lucrative activity during the Occupation was his false escape route. Under the codename "Dr. Eugène", Petiot pretended to have a means of getting people wanted by the Germans or the Vichy government to safety outside of France. Petiot 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. Three accomplices, Raoul Fourrier, Edmond Pintard, and René-Gustave Nézondet, directed victims to "Dr. Eugène", including Jews, Resistance fighters, and 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. Then he took all their valuables and disposed of the bodies.

At first, Petiot dumped the bodies in the Seine, but he later destroyed the bodies by submerging them in quicklime or by incinerating them. In 1941, Petiot bought a house at 21 Rue le Sueur. He purchased the house the same week that Henri Lafont returned to Paris with money and permission from the Abwehr to recruit new members for the French Gestapo.

What Petiot failed to do was to keep a low profile. The Gestapo eventually found out about him and, by April 1943, they had heard all about this "route" for the escape of wanted persons, which they assumed was part of the Resistance. Gestapo agent Robert Jodkum forced prisoner Yvan Dreyfus to approach the supposed network, but Dreyfus simply vanished. A later informer successfully infiltrated the operation, and the Gestapo arrested Fourrier, Pintard, and Nézondet. Under torture, they confessed that "Dr. Eugène" was Marcel Petiot. Nézondet was later released, but three others spent eight months in prison, suspected of helping Jews to escape. Even under torture, they did not identify any other members of the Resistance – because they actually knew of none. The Gestapo released the three men in January 1944.

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