Oral History

Leo Bretholz describes arrival at the Drancy camp

After the Germans annexed Austria in 1938, Leo attempted to flee. He eventually reached Belgium. In 1940 he was deported to the St.-Cyprien camp in France but escaped. In 1942 Leo was smuggled into Switzerland but was arrested and sent back to France, this time to the Rivesaltes and Drancy camps. He and a friend escaped from a train deporting them to Auschwitz in Poland. Leo joined the French underground in 1943. He arrived in the United States in 1947.


We arrived in Drancy and were checked in. The checking-in process in Drancy was...well, a first step in a, in a real dehumanization process. Number one, when we arrived there, the faces that we saw, the...the eyes with queries in them, and a lot of questions, "Where are you coming from? How is it outside? What did you...what do you think?" and "What news do you have?" Everybody gathering about a new group of arrivals because they may, they may have something to convey and we went through a barrack process of checking in which would also mean taking your watch away, your rings, certain belongings, money. And another psychological ploy, giving you a receipt for the things that they took from you, with the admonition, "Don't lose that, because you will never get them back. That is your receipt that has a number on it." It had a number on it. Just imagine that.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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