Jews and Psychiatry Under the Occupation

[traduction par Sarah Stroud de mon article
Juifs en psychiatrie sous l'Occupation.
L'hospitalisation des Juifs en psychiatrie sous Vichy dans le département de la Seine
Histoire des Sciences Médicales, T. XLII, n°4, 2008; 349-358]

The author presents the actual state of his research on this question so far little studied, in a department whose specifics must be taken into account. The study of about 50 medical files and various unpublished documents makes it possible to specify the conditions in which persons persecuted because of racial laws and hospitalized in psychiatry have been protected. With regard to their property, it appears that the system intended to protect the mentally ill during their placement in a psychiatric hospital has been diverted, and used to rob the patients “who claim to be Jewish or were supposed to be”.

Then from a previous search on the famine and its consequences in the psychiatric hospitals under the Occupation (“about the hecatomb (def: any slaughter on a mass scale) deficiency in psychiatric hospitals under the Occupation” (Histoire des sciences médicales, 2006, XL, n°3; 313-319), we had to consult the registers of admissions of the mentally ill in the psychiatric hospitals of the former department of the Seine (Archives de Paris, 1243 W, articles 25 à 30).

These registers, kept in the Archives of Paris indicate the “Camp of Drancy” as the last home of several of the persons before their hospitalization in psychiatry between 1941 and 1944.

One of them, a man of 35 years, was in office placement at the Hospital of Sainte-Anne (Paris) on May 27, 1942, and left on July 13, 1943. His name appears on the list of deportees of convoy No. 57 to Auschwitz, left Drancy July 18, 1943, five days after leaving Sainte-Anne.

If that man had been, as is very likely, reinstated directly to Drancy, such a case comes in opposition of what we could read or hear. On the role played by psychiatric asylum hospitals in the noble sense, an inviolable refuge that had saved Jews from deportation: people who are ill or not, who are persecuted or likely to be affected by racial laws, had been admitted to psychiatric hospitals and released after the Liberation.

There are two painters, Leon Schwarz-Abrys and Jean-Michel Atlan, who are staying in the same Sainte-Anne hospital, as well as Abraham Zoltobroda, whose notebooks written during his stay in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp and the Psychotherapeutic Center of Fleury-lès-Aubrais have just been translated from Yiddish and published by Cercil.
As early as 1945, Denise Aimé had published the story of the events that led her from Drancy to Sainte-Anne: an Israeli convert to Catholicism, Denise was arrested and interned at the end of December 1942 in Drancy, from where she obtained her transfer to Claude Hospital. Bernard. “Brought back to her family”, she simulates mental disorders that lead her from a convent where she had taken refuge at the Henri-Rousselle Hospital, then at Sainte-Anne Hospital, from where she left on August 20 1944, even before the end of the fighting for the liberation of Paris.

Denise Aimé, Relais des errants [Drancy sous l'étoile jaune. La condition juive]. Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1945; 323 p.

Schwarz-Abrys, L'âne ne monte pas au cerisier. Avant-propos de Benjamin Graulle, Directeur du Centre Psychiatrique Sainte-Anne. Illustrations de l'auteur. Paris, Debresse, 1950; 215 p.

Schwarz-Abrys, Gentil chapon touche du bois. Préface de Jean Vinchon, 1951 (réédité en 2009 : Cambourakis éd., coll. En Démence, préface Anouck Cape; 336 p.)

"Interné d'office... Du camp de Beaune-la-Rolande à l'hôpital psychiatrique de Fleury-les-Aubrais. Les cahiers d'Abraham Zoltobroda." Traduction du yiddish par Batia Baum. Etudes historiques : Isabelle von Bueltzingsloewen et Benoît Verny. Editions CERCIL

If, during the 3 years of major danger –between the summer of 1941 and the summer of 1944 (June 2, 1941: 2nd Statute of the Jews, August 20, 1941: Drancy becomes a Jewish internment camp, July 31: the last convoy for Auschwitz leaves from Drancy, for Buchenwald on August 17) many Jews were hidden in psychiatric hospitals, or were simply kept there when their mental state did not justify it or did not justify it anymore, the fact must appear by many goings from September 1944.

In order to try to assess the validity of this hypothesis, all the files of the patients hospitalized in one of the large psychiatric hospitals of the Paris area, former asylum of the department of the Seine and released in 1943, 1944 and 1945 was studied.


The Specialties of the Department of the Seine

The first results presented here cannot be generalized to the whole of France, nor even to the part of the national territory subjected to the German Reich, if only because of the specifics of the department of the Seine, and the establishment whose archives we have studied :

- in Paris, psychiatric hospitals depend on two prefectures, that of the Seine and that of the Prefecture of Police.

- Moreover, each sick patient placed in one of the department’s psychiatric hospitals passes first by the Infirmary of the Prefecture of Police or by the Henri-Rousselle Hospital, then by the Admissions Service of the Sainte-Anne Hospital. This implies that he is examined successively by three independent doctors.

- On the other hand, the hospital whose files we studied is a public establishment, which at that time received only women, and has the only service known as “lunatic tuberculosis patients of the department of the Seine”: the mortality rate there is therefore even higher than in other psychiatric hospitals, all of which were severely affected by the restrictions during this period.

- Finally, this hospital is then located in the department of the Seine-et-Oise, and we know that the freedom of movement of Jewish property and people from one department to another, or even a municipality to the other for foreigners, was restricted.

In a letter dated August 24, 1942 addressed to the Section of Inmates and Jews of the Prefecture of Police (Paris) and for the purpose of the departure of Jewish children in summer camp, the SS Helmut Knochen, head of the Sipo -SD (Security Police – Security Service) states :

“By my letter of June 30, 1942, I have already stated that the Jews are allowed, for reasons of work or other important reasons, to go from the Department of the Seine to the neighboring departments (Seine-et-Oise, Seine-et-Marne) provided that they undertake the journey after 6 am and that they have returned to their homes before 8 pm” (CDJC, Paris, XX-34).

Thus, the granddaughter of a patient living in Paris wrote to the doctor in February 1943: “being an Israelite, it is difficult for me to leave the Seine department to visit him” (Archives de Maison-Blanche, décès 1943, 2ème section, dr. Schenda M. Veuve G.). This granddaughter will be deported to Auschwitz by convoy No. 61 on October 28, 1943.

There was, however, no difficulty in driving patients there, and psychiatric hospitals, unlike general hospitals – with the exception of Rothschild Hospital – remained accessible to Jews throughout the Occupation.

Fifty Files

The study of the files, classified by year of exit, transfer, or death, concerned the years 1943, 1944 and 1945; and, for these last two years, only on the files of the people entered before the Liberation. Some of them had been admitted before the beginning of racial persecution, and, even for some, before the war.

The records included in our study are those of hospitalized persecuted or likely to be under the laws “bearing the status of Jews”, in which is found the mention of the religion “Jewish” or “Israelite” on the Bulletin of entry of Sainte-Anne, on the cover of the file, in a legal certificate or in the medical notes and nurses, a yellow star in the inventory at the entrance, a surname suggesting the risk of being persecuted and which one finds in the lists of the Shoah Memorial (the alphabetical list of deportees by convoy was published in the Memorial of the Deportation of Jews of France, by Serge Klarsfeld (1978), and since supplemented by the Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center, Paris) [Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine, Paris].

The selected files are 50, which are :

- 25 deaths, 9 of which were cachexia (with edema of deficiency), 7 of tuberculosis, 9 of various somatic diseases (cancer, O.A.P. [Acute Pulmonary Edema], pneumonia, stroke, etc.). Recall here that this hospital of about 2,500 beds had up to 700 deaths in a single year during this period. The particularly high rate of death can be related to 2 states of affairs: a very unfavorable physiological state linked to severe deprivations prior to admission, making the patient very vulnerable to under-nutrition in the hospital; and the lack of visits from relatives because of the circumstances.

- 4 transfers before the Liberation (3 in March 1943, including 2 in Auxerre (Yonne) and 1 at the Health House of Ivry; 1 in Ville-Evrard in June 1944).

- 3 transfers after the Liberation.

- 18 exits by healing or improvement, only 1 before the second half of August 1944 – but the name of the patient does not appear on the lists of deportees.
The other 17 people who exited are spread out between September 4 and the summer of 1945, so long after the Liberation and the abolition of discriminatory laws: some exits had to be delayed because of the absence of relatives, some because of the loss of housing and other material assets.

Saved By Internment?

Many of these people were undoubtedly protected voluntarily, and would have been deported if they had left before August 1944: 1 or more relatives, first or second degree relatives, of a very large majority of them disappeared in Auschwitz.

Those who survived famine and diseases, especially tuberculosis, were saved by the disease, if not the hospital.

Thus, it is thanks to the prolongation of an internment little or not justified on the medical level that Mrs. Golda K., born in Warsaw in 1902, owed her salvation.
She entered Sainte-Anne on May 14, 1943, was transferred to Maison-Blanche on the 19th, and did not leave until January 6, 1945.

The certificate of the Special Infirmary near the Prefecture of Police, signed by the chief physician Georges Heuyer on May 14, 1943, notes: “Melancholy. Depression. Sadness. Tears. Tired. Asthenia. Vegetative state. At her house she always remained in bed. Desire to die. Statement of Suicide Ideas (…) Polish Israelite. Should be sent to the camp of Drancy.”

At the entrance, her statements are recorded in the nurses’ report, beautifully titled Life in the Asylum: “My husband and my son are in a concentration camp in Drancy. When we came to pick them up I had a nervous breakdown. I lost consciousness, I was taken to Ste Anne.”

Then we learn that she “does a little knitting. Cries sometimes thinking about her children and her husband. (…) takes care of sewing and peeling (…) goes to sort the beans, is working on mending stockings … ”

We also read: “Mother of 77 years is taken from Drancy to an unknown destination“, then “Good morale, always with hope. Suffering from the separation of her deported mother, husband, son Drancy“. Furthermore, a note: “her husband and son are in Pol“.

Her husband had been deported to Auschwitz, then her mother and her 16 year old son in July 1943.

The Case of Fanny P., 43 years old, Romanian Jew Naturalized French

Another example of hospitalization that allows a patient, thanks to the protection of the doctor, to escape death: Fanny P., 43 years old, Romanian Jew Naturalized French.

Doctor Génil Perrin, doctor of the Henri-Rousselle Hospital, certifies on August 6, 1942: “(…) the delirium seems colored by the events, it is heaped on by the espionage of the anti-Jewish police and the fascist party who constantly monitor and threaten her (…) “.

Dr. Xavier Abely, specifies three days later in the Immediate certificate, “(…) Delusions of persecution, disdain, provocation (a plot is mounted against her, we want to seize her home, there is all sorts of bullying being done, she is made to understand that she smells bad, and in the hospital itself she is the object of all kinds of vexations (…) “.

As for Dr. Beaudouin, a doctor of Maison-Blanche who entered on the 11th of the same month, he wrote: “(…) Apparent aggravation following the police measures taken against the Jews (…)”. personal belongings deposited on admission, the inventory mentions a “Jewish star”.

A few months later, the French nationality is withdrawn by decree of February 6, 1943, in application of the law of July 22, 1940.

In a letter from the Prefecture of Police, dated July 8, 1943: “In the event that the person concerned comes to be released, I ask you to invite them to report to the Prefecture of Police, Service of Naturalization, Office 85 for the regularization of their position as a foreigner”. But 3 certificates of situation, signed by Beaudouin, claim that Mrs. P. “presents a delirious state which, at the moment, contra-indicates her conduct at the police station as well as her interrogation by the police services”.

In this same file is preserved the letter of a neighbor dated July 16, 1944 informing her that “the Germans came to move her room” …

This person is one of the many victims of the Operation Furniture (l’Opération meuble), during which 38,000 Paris apartments will be emptied between 1942 and 1944 of all their content.

Mental Disorders

The study of the files cannot make it possible to know with certainty who was sick and who was not, was no longer or was not enough to justify his stay in the hospital, in other words, that has saved by the asylum and by the disease.

But this study brings forth valuable elements that shed light on the role played by the “events”, which sometimes “color” delirium, and are often, themselves, the cause of mental disorders :

Mrs. B., 25 years old, has been suffering from a depressive phase for 15 days, a “hallucinatory and dreamlike syndrome: she acts as a transmitter for German broadcasting, the police track her down because she is Jewish, she is mad. we make her part of “a conspiracy“, etc. ”

Mrs. D., 65 years old: “Fears being arrested by the police“

Mrs. B., 37 years old: “Fears of future misfortunes”

Mrs. G., 77 years old, comes from the Rothschild Hospice, rue de Picpus: “… Every night she has paranoid delusions where we represent crimes and murders, but where people never die. We want to have her deported. She walks naked and barefoot etc.”

Mrs. L., 61 years old: “(…) women’s voices tell her that she is an unhappy woman, that we are going to come for her, that we will throw her out, that we will kill her; her husband will be killed too; she is made to understand that she cannot return home (…) fears of terrible persecution“.

Mrs. M., 31 years old, “… is suffering from a state of anxiety. A fear of being killed by the Germans as Jewish. Is insulted and threatened … ”

Mrs. R., 75 years old, presents a “Disorder of Acts. Refusal to comply with the foreign service of the Prefecture of Police. Laceration of all her Polish papers. Wants to go to Palestine (…) “(Heuyer, November 14, 1941). Dr. Chatagnon, at the entrance to Maison-Blanche on November 20, notes: “Impossibility of a psychopathological examination: because of our misunderstanding of Yiddish and Polish. ”

Mrs. T., 68 years old, presents a “state of anxiety: psychomotor excitement on the background of senility, with confused ideas of persecution, agitation, incoherent exonerations: she stole her belongings, she is in a” house of crime “, she is martyred she’s innocent … crying. Moanings. Stereotypical lamentations. Protests. Declamations. Would have broken the tiles and set fire to her bench at Rothschild hospital …“(Dr. Dupouy, January 4, 1944)

Mrs. K., wife M., whose daughter is arrested and deported by convoy No. 11 on July 27, 1942, jumped out of a third floor window in September: “Is afflicted with simple melancholy to violent emotional shock caused by the departure of her daughter, of whom she has no news ”

« SICK supposedly JEWISH »

In one of the files consulted was preserved a curious printing (Archives of Maison-Blanche, 2nd section, Outputs 1944, Mrs. B., entered on April 4, 1944) entitled “SICK supposedly JEWISH“ :

Psychiatric Hospital of Maison-Blanche

Neuilly s/Marne le

The Director of the Psychiatric Hospital of Maison-Blanche
to Mister Provisional Administrator of the Property of Foreigners

I have the honor to inform you that the patient
Registration number

saying to herself, supposedly (scratch the useless mention) Israelite,
entered treatment in my Establishment on
was released on

The Director

Were Jews hospitalized in psychiatry under Vichy protected from spoliations, in particular thanks to the measures provided by the specific regulations and the law of June 30, 1838, or were they victims, like the other Jews?

The law of June 30, 1838: protection of persons and protection of property

The traditional psychiatric hospital has a double job, guaranteed by the law of June 30, 1838: the protection of persons and the protection of their property.

It is useful to remind beforehand that until recently :

- at the Psychiatric Hospital, no sick person has the right to wear his own clothes, nor to keep valuables or money.

- In addition, any person placed in a public psychiatric hospital is represented for the management of his assets by a provisional administrator chosen each year from among the members of the Supervisory Commission (Article 31 of the law of 30 June 1838).

The clothes and other effects of little value are deposited in the cloakroom of the hospital: this “deposit” is delivered to them upon exit. In case of death, only the director, after a social inquiry, can grant restitution to the family: the regulations of psychiatric hospitals of the Seine provide in fact that the effects and objects of deceased patients remain the property of the institution.

In the department of Seine, jewels and valuables, sums of money or securities are collected from the patient during their passage at the Sainte-Anne hospital and deposited at the Psychiatric Hospital Reception, rue Lobau, at the Service or Guardianship Office. On leaving, it is recommended to the interested party to come “as soon as possible” with their Bulletin de exit. In the event of death, relatives are invited to contact them to request restitution.

The temporary administrator of the former department of the Seine is in charge of all psychiatric institutions in the department, that is several thousand patients. It is therefore, in fact, the office of the tutelage that manages the property of the sick of the Seine. This service includes “service investigators”, who go to the homes of the sick, their relatives, to gather the information necessary for the administration of their property and the recovery of their living expenses.

This printing “SICK supposedly JEWISH” was intended for the Provisional Administrator of the Property of Foreigners. Whose initiative was such a census and what was its purpose? Two letters preserved in the administrative archives of the Maison-Blanche hospital provide some answers :

A letter dated October 18, 1941 from the Provisional Administrator of the Property of the Foreigners of the Seine, signed Autrand (Auguste Alexandre Guillaume Autrand (1856-1949), former prefect of the Seine, reinvested in his duties on the Supervisory Commission in September 1945 and again a few days before his death) reminds the director of the Maison-Blanche Hospital the need, “in order to enable him to keep up to date the list of Jewish patients (that he has) previously sent, and to make the additional declarations, (from him) indicate the names of the Jewish patients who could have entered (in the establishment) since the making of this list.” “For the future, you will inform me immediately of the entry as well as the exit of any sick Israelite patient or those presumed as such.”

In a note dated September 22, 1942, the Head of the Guardianship Office – Costs of Staying of the Direction of Departmental Affairs, “to answer a question asked by some asylums”, informs the directors of psychiatric hospitals and family settlements of mentally unstable people of the Seine “that there is no need to subject Jewish patients to treatment in (their) establishment to the various prescribed formalities with regard to Jews in general” (including, we can think, the wearing of the Jewish star), but that, “as far as the patrimony of these patients is concerned, there is no modification to the instructions (…) previously given (by) the Administrator of the property.” He therefore begs them “to report to him (Office of Guardianship) as in the past, the entrances and exits of the sick Israelite patient or those presumed as such.

The purpose of the census of Jews hospitalized in psychiatry

3 documents consulted at the Contemporary Center of Documentation of Jews (Centre de Documentation Juivre Contemporaine) (17, rue Geoffroy-l’Asnier 75004 Paris) suggest the purpose of this census :

The first is the copy of a note of the chief of the Service of Inmates and Hospitalizations of the Prefecture of Police, about the request for the return of valuables or jewelry belonging to mentally unstable Jews when they left the psychiatric hospitals of the Department of the Seine (Fonds C.G.Q.J., LXI-47 (C.D.J.C.), 1 p.) :

Service of the Mentally Unstable

Paris, September 2, 1941

NOTE for Mister the Director of Administrative Affairs of the General Police (Office of Correspondence and of the liquidation of Jewish Affairs)

In recent weeks, the Jewish patients who, upon their release from psychiatric hospitals in the department of the Seine, come to the Prefecture of the Seine (Guardianship of the Mentally Unstable) to take possession of the valuables, jewelry, or sums of money deposited with them to the service at the time of their internment, are asked for a certificate from the Prefecture of Police authorizing the restitution.

Thus the service of the Mentally Unstable is seized at the moment of a request of M. K…., Berthold, residing in Paris 58, rue la Bruyère, whose daughter, K…., Marguerite, wife G…., left Ville-Evrard on August 13th.

Having received no instruction on this subject, I have the honor of transmitting to you the request in question as it appears to fall within the object of your attributions.

I would be grateful if you would be good enough to keep me informed of the follow-up given to this affair and to indicate to me the procedure to follow, in the future, when I will be seized of requests for restitution of valuables or jewelry belonging to mentally unstable Jews.

Assistant Director, Head of the Department of the Mentally Unstable and the Hospitalized

The Prefect of Police refers to the Office of the Commissioner General for Jewish Questions, service of Jacques Ditte, Director of the Status of Persons :

Prefecture of Police, Directorate of Administrative Affairs of General Police.
Sub-Directorate of Foreigners and Jewish Affairs.

Paris, the 26th of September, 1941

The Prefect of Police to Mister Commissioner General of Jewish Questions (Service of M. Ditte 1, place des Petits Pères Paris 2ème)

I have the honor to transmit to you, for all practical purposes, a note from the Assistant Director of the Service of Inmates, and concerning the Jewish patients.

These, at the exit of the psychiatric hospitals, ask to return in possession of the objects deposited in their name in the service of the mentally unstable of the Prefecture of the Seine.
I should be grateful if you would kindly give me your instructions on this subject.

The Prefect of Police. The Director of Administrative Affairs of General Police J. François

(on the margin is written:) file the names

The third document is the copy of a letter, not dated, dealing with this same question of the restitution of jewelry to the hospitalized Jewish patients (Fonds C.G.Q.J., CCXXXV-62 (C.D.J.C.), 1 p.):

Legislation and Litigation Service.

The Commissioner General for Jewish Questions to

Mister Prefect of the Seine, Direction of Departmental Affairs
Receiving of the Mentally Unstable to the Asylum, 2, rue Lobau, IV

For a letter of 12 current, you were kind enough to ask me, if Mister the Receiver of the Asylum can hand an alliance to his Jewish owner, and, more generally, in which cases jewelry belonging to Jewish patients hospitalized by your administration may be returned to the person concerned or to their dependents.

I have the honor to inform you that in principle, and on the terms of the note on the circulation of the capital, established by our services on August 25, 1941, for the interpretation of the German Order of May 23, 1941, “gold, currency, jewelry, silverware, and in general, all objects of value” cannot be returned to interested parties.

However, this prohibition may not apply to jewels of low or no market value, such as an alliance, to which their possessor alone may attach a certain price because of the memories attached to them or the symbolic character which is generally attributed to them.

I therefore consider that can be given to those concerned, on leaving your establishments, without contravening the above provisions, jewelry belonging to them that do not have a market value likely to be considered as capital, and to which the use assigns usually a moral value that outweighs the first.

It seems that this document follows those of September 2nd and 26th, 1941.

A few weeks later, on October 18, 1941, Autrand asked for the update of the list “previously sent” and to be notified of the entry and exit of any ill Jewish person or supposed such.

It will be noted that in place of this procedure of registration and spoliation closely follows the law of July 22, 1941 on the economic Aryanization, aimed at the elimination of “any influence in the national economy” and entrusted to the Office of the Commissioner General for Jewish Affairs the nomination of a provisional administrator to the companies, buildings, furniture, valuables, and moveable property when they people they belong to or who direct them are Jewish (the Provisional Administrator of the law of July 22, 1941, JO of August 26, 1941, should not be confused with the previous administrator of the law of June 30, 1838).

On August 25th, the C.G.Q.J. broadcasts a note “on the circulation of Jewish capital”: all the Jewish assets in the Occupied Zone are blocked. The Jews cannot withdraw from their account the sums necessary for their daily life, the amount of these sums are being fixed by the financial establishment.

The next year, on September 22, 1942, the services of the rue Lobau confirm –with regard to the heritage of the Jewish patients or those presumed as such- the need to report their entries and exits, as in the past, to the Property Administrator.

The system in place to protect the mentally ill patients during the course of their placement in the psychiatric hospital would have been diverted, and utilized in order to steal the goods deposited at rue Lobau when they belonged to the hospitalized Jews.

The archives of the Direction of Departmental Affairs, who could clarify the role of the provisional administrator in the heritage management of Jews placed in the public psychiatric hospital, seems to be preserved neither in the Prefecture of Paris – heiress of the Prefecture of the Seine- nor in the Archives of Paris (We thank especially for their kindness Mr. Prefect Michel Lalande, Mrs. A. Masson, Director of the Archives of Paris, and Mr. O. Muth, conservator).

About the records of the sessions of the Commission of Supervision –who pursued the works during the studied period- for the years of 1940 to 1944, in all likelihood they have never been published, and the notes or reports that relate to it are still untraceable.

The mission of study on the spoliations of the Jews of France, whose final report has been dropped in 2000, was responsible for “studying the conditions under which the property (…) belonging to the Jews of France were confiscated, or in a general way, acquired by fraud, violence or theft, both by the Occupier and the authorities of Vichy between 1940 and 1944”.
The mission of study has not addressed the particular conditions of the confiscation occasionally of the hospitalizations in psychiatry.
That study will merit further study and extension to other departments.

Michel Caire 2019
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