Oral History

Leo Bretholz describes conditions in 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.


Drancy was a complex that was built to be a military barracks facility. It was a multi-story complex almost like a stadium because it was round. But due to the war...beginning of the war...that building, that structure, was never finished. So the places...the rooms that they put us in were wide open...concrete floor with piping laying around and in...half-installed electrical wires, half installed plumbing, makeshift, and it was concrete. Windows...no, no windows...There were, there were no panes in the windows. It was just the opening where the windows were supposed to go in the frames later. That wasn't done so it was all open, breezy. And on this concrete, straw. Men, women, children together. Minimal facilities to wash, community...um, one trough-like...where you...where the water ran down from in trickle. Minimum toilet facilities. Watchtowers. Barbed wire. A suburb of Paris, close to, quote, "civilization." Um, minimal food distribution. That's where we were issued the Jewish star.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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