Executions · France

Man executed for promising Jews safe passage out of Nazi-occupied France, then murdering them to steal their possession

May 25, 1946
Paris, France
Dr. Marcel Petiot is executed for murdering Jews he claimed he was helping escape from Nazi-occupied France

Petiot’s past was dotted with various misdeeds, including the possible murder of his lover, insurance fraud, purposefully giving his patients unnecessary addictive substances to keep them as repeat customers, and embezzling from a city after he was elected mayor.

When the Nazis occupied France, Petiot posed as a member of the Resistance and offered to smuggle people from France to South America. Primarily, his clients were Jews fleeing from the Nazis, but he also took Resistance members and criminals if they could afford his fees. He then claimed authorities in Argentina required inoculations, injecting his victims with cyanide instead of the vaccines he alleged to administer. Petiot took any valuables the victims carried and disposed of their bodies, either by burying them with quicklime or by incinerating them.

On March 11, 1944, neighbors complained of a foul-smelling smoke coming from Petiot’s chimney. Police were called, who in turn called firefighters. The firefighters entered the home, fearing a chimney fire, whereupon they discovered bodies, body parts, and human bones. Petiot’s property was investigated and the bodies of 27 were found. Petiot evaded capture initially and began hiding with friends, claiming the Gestapo were after him for killing German soldiers. He was recognized in October 1944 and arrested.

At trial on March 19, 1946, Petiot confessed to murdering 19 of the 27 bodies found in his house. He claimed the 19 victims were part of a total of 63 Germans he had killed, attempting to garner local sympathy. The ploy failed and Petiot was executed by guillotine on May 25.

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