Neighbors living next to Marcel Petiot, an extremely eccentric and secluded medical doctor, never could have speculated on the horrors that went on at 21 Rue Le Sueur until the police raided his manor.
Months prior to Petiot’s arrest, black smoke escaped from his home, but most assumed it was nothing more than an illegal brewing operation; these were common during France’s prohibition.
Never could they have guessed that the smoke inhaled by neighbors for several months was the burning corpses of several unlucky victims.
The blackened smoke was especially heavy on March 6th, 1944, pushing one of Petiot’s neighbors, Andree Marcais, to call and complain to the local police.
Police and firefighters quickly arrived at 21 Rue Le Sueur, and after rapping heavily on the front door and getting no response, one firefighter climbed to a small banister and peered through the sooted window.
Seeing the outline of what he thought was a human body, he smashed open the window with his fire axe and climbed inside. The soot covered rescuer emerged from the home minutes later where he leaned against a wall and vomited.
“Gentlemen, you’d better go and take a look in the basement. I think you’ll find plenty that interest you.”
Police entered Petiot’s home and found several burning stoves, which provided the only source of light in the total blackness of the smoked-out home.
Near each stove were the piled up remains of several human victims.
Not only was there a hideous amount of human body parts scattered around Petiot’s home, but police also found evidence of a torture chamber. The ‘triangle room’, as police called it, was concealed through a small hidden door behind a fake wall.
Marcel Petiot would whisk his victims inside so that they “could hide from the Gestapo”, and then lock the door from the outside. There was no doorknob on the inside of the room, so, like a mouse in a trap, his victims were helpless.
Then, wearing a gas mask for protection and watching from the outside, Petiot would pump poisonous gas into the tiny room and gleefully observe his victims suffer through a peephole attached to a telescopic lens.
Once dead, Marcel would dispose of the bodies in the nearby Siene River, but eventually this task became too overwhelming; hence the piles of dead bodies and burning stoves in his home.
Doors were opened and “limbs, bones and skulls tumbled out.” 30 pairs of women’s shoes were found along with a pit of quicklime. On top, “fragments of more than a dozen decayed human bodies.”
Also found in the home were 48 suitcases, 1700 articles of clothing, jewelry, fur coats, shoes, and eyeglasses.
Down in the basement area is where police found most of the macabre dealings. There were many pits filled with quicklime and human decay.
“A fresh pit had been dug and heaped with bodies, the quicklime all made up and ready to be poured over it.”
Several dresser drawers upstairs contained the valuables of Petiot’s victims.
Gold rings were especially prevalent. Some still contained the severed fingers which Petiot would later need to forcibly remove.
Gold teeth, many with blood and gum fragments attached, were also found in the upstairs rooms.
The apartment was terribly cluttered. When one officer tripped over a sack left casually on the floor, “a whole human head came tumbling out of it” bouncing down the entrance hall.
Created His Own Holocaust
Police began suspecting that a serial killer was active in Paris, even during the turbulent years of 1940–1944, when corpses would wash up in the Seine.
Many of the bodies weren’t complete, but only the dismembered legs and arms. This created the almost impossible duty of the French Police in identifying the victims.
The majority were never identified and “among the pieces were nine decapitated heads of unknown origin, four thighs, and sundry other parts, too.”
One of Petiot’s victims, a Yvan (Yva) Dreyfus, was an extremely wealthy French Jew living in Paris during the German occupation.
Dreyfus had heard stories of how Petiot, under the alias of Dr. Eugene, had been successful in smuggling a large portion of Jews out of Paris.
Petiot claimed he had contacts from Paris to Argentina, and for the right price, could smuggle out any Jewish man, woman, or family from under the “Gestapo’s black boot.”
However, this was a horrific lie.
Marcel would kill these desperate men, women, and children and then rob them of their money and jewelry, which they were carrying under the presumption of fleeing Paris.
To add insult to injury, Petiot referred to his ‘underground escape network’ as Fly-Tox, which France, and especially the Gestapo, became hell-bent on uncovering.
The name Fly-Tox had already been used for decades as an insecticide killer for mosquitoes. The Fly-Tox brand was popular in the United States, and the company advertised extensively.
Simply put, Marcel Petiot’s fake underground smuggling network was named after a pest insecticide.
Perhaps to Petiot, his Jewish victims were nothing more than pesky bugs.
In the end, Marcel Petiot received his due justice under France’s guillotine, although police would never be able to identify most of his victims.