Rothschild: Epilogue
Anne Landau, Department of French and Italian, Northwestern University
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A final commentary is in order. The story of the Rothschild Hospital during World War II is generally unknown. Very little research has been done on this subject. This may be because very little research can be done about it. As with many other events dealing with Vichy France and its anti-Jewish policies, there appears to have been deliberate concealment of documents and facts. The most generous excuse is bureaucratic lethargy on the part the medical community, doctors guilds, and various government entities, leading to a failure to share information and publicize the sad, disgraceful truths about French citizens’ and Vichy officials’ involvement in the Holocaust of the Jews of France.

In his video interview, the doctor historian Bruno Halioua stated that in order to see files on Jewish doctors during the war, he had to lie to officials of the Hôpitaux de Paris, saying that he was doing a socio-demographic study on doctors in France from 1900 to 1970. In order to see the Rothschild Hospital files, he falsely claimed to be studying newborn death rates at all the Hôpitaux de Paris. When he asked to see information on doctors in the Resistance, he was told their files would not be public until 2064.

Upon his return from Buchenwald, Armand Kohn was debriefed by the French police. Gisèle Pierronnet applied for and received special permission to see the Armand Kohn files which are under seal at the Prefecture of Paris. She was able to read the files on the incorporation of the Rothschild Hospital into the Hôpitaux de Paris (call number 328 W 8) in 2003, but only after she made a formal request to the administration of the Archives de France and the Director of Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris; she was first told the documents would not be public until 2053! We can only speculate as to the reasons for withholding this information; Mme Pierronnet was not told.

Until 2005, the Admissions and Discharge Registers of the Rothschild Hospital for the years 1942 to 1944 were kept at the hospital. In 2004, they were kept in a dusty closet on a dirty floor in one of the few remaining original pavilions. Registers for other years were kept elsewhere. In 2004, the investigators of the Picpus Digital Archives made a formal request to photograph them. The request was denied. Patients’ rights to privacy were invoked. Arguments that these registers were prison records, and not hospital records, fell on deaf ears. In 2005, Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of Doctors without Borders and former Minister of Health, interceded. The records have now been moved to a safer environment, the Archives de l’Assistance Publique et des Hôpitaux de Paris in Paris, and historians and survivor families should now have full access.

In 1996, AFMA (Association Fond Mémoire d’Auschwitz) commemorated Rothschild’s sacrifices during the Occupation. At the ceremony, speeches were made, survivors recounted their experiences, and plaques were erected on the walls of the few original pavilions that still exist today at the old entrance on the rue Santerre. Two of the plaques list the hospital personnel who were arrested at the hospital or elsewhere in France, and deported to the camps, victims of Nazi barbarism. Only the third plaque mentions the collaboration of the Vichy government:

A la mémoire des victimes malades, jeunes mères, nouveaux- nés de l’hôpital Rothschild. Arrêtés de 1942 à 1944 sur ordre du gouvernement de Vichy ou de la Gestapo parce que nés juifs. Ils ont été rassemblés à Drancy puis déportés à Auschwitz où ils furent gazés et brûlés dès leur arrivée.

To the memory of the victims - the sick, the young mothers and the newborns of the Rothschild Hospital. Arrested from 1942 to 1944, on orders from the Vichy government or the Gestapo, because born Jewish. They were assembled at Drancy, and then deported to Auschwitz where they were gassed and burned on arrival.

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