The Drancy internment camp was an assembly and detention camp for confining Jews who were later deported to the extermination camps under German military administration of Occupied France during World War II. Drancy was under the control of the French police until 1943, when administration was taken over by the SS and officer Alois Brunner.
The Drancy internment camp was located in the north-eastern suburb of Paris, which was originally conceived as a striking, modernist urban community. The design was especially noteworthy for its integration of high-rise residential apartment towers, among the first of their kind in France.
The entire complex was confiscated by Nazi authorities not long after the German occupation of France began in 1940. It was used first as police barracks, then converted into the primary detention centre in the Paris region for holding Jews and other people labelled as ‘undesirable’ before deportation.
Five subcamps of Drancy were located throughout Paris (three of which were the Austerlitz, Lévitan and Bassano camps). Following the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup on July 16 and 17, 1942, more than 4,900 of the 13,152 victims of the mass arrest were sent directly to the camp at Drancy before their deportation to Auschwitz. On 3 July 1943 Germany took direct control of the Drancy camp. SS officer Alois Brunner became camp commandant as part of the major stepping up at all facilities needed for mass extermination.
The Drancy camp was designed to hold 700 people, but at its peak held more than 7,000. Many French Jewish intellectuals and artists were held in Drancy, including Max Jacob (who died there), Tristan Bernard, and choreographer René Blum. Of the 75,000 Jews whom French and German authorities deported from France, more than 67,000 were sent directly from Drancy to Auschwitz.
Between June 22, 1942, and July 31, 1944, during its use as an internment camp, 67,400 French, Polish, and German Jews were deported from the camp in 64 rail transports, which included 6,000 children. Only 1,542 remained alive at the camp when Allied forces liberated it on 17 August 1944.
Until recently, the official point of view of the French government was that the Vichy regime was an illegal government distinct from the French Republic. While the criminal behaviour of Vichy France and the collaboration of French officials were acknowledged, and some former Vichy officials prosecuted, this point of view denied any responsibility of the French Republic.