Rothschild : The Rothschild Hospital
Anne Landau, Department of French and Italian, Northwestern University

When prisoners completed treatment at Rothschild, the French police ordered their return to Drancy. If doctors balked, police warned that the German authorities would find prolonged hospital stays unwarranted, with potential serious consequences for all Jewish patients and hospital personnel. It was difficult, Dr. Worms stated in his report, to make the police understand that most chronic illnesses did not improve with hospital stays, but he reluctantly agreed to allow a minimum number of patients to be returned to Drancy each week. In February 1942, Worms convinced the authorities to install an x-ray machine at Drancy to detect tuberculosis, and to allow those with lesions to be sent to the hospital. [Later, Brunner had prisoners routinely x-rayed, but this was part of the illusion to deceive prisoners into believing they were being deported to work camps rather than execution chambers.]

Two roundups of Jews at Rothschild brought about the departures of Sammy Halfon and Dr. Worms:

The first occurred as a consequence of the April 4, 1942 visit of Theodor Dannecker to the Rothschild Hospital. (Pierronnet interview.) Dannecker directed the anti-Jewish section of the Gestapo in France from September 1940 to September 1942; he was Drancy’s first commander. He was brutal, hateful and threatening. Halfon and surgery intern Marcel Leibovici accompanied Dannecker through the wards. Dannecker kicked Leibovici repeatedly, and ripped fresh dressings off prisoners to see if their claimed wounds or operations were real. He ordered the return to Drancy of one-sixth of the patients. Halfon objected, arguing that in his agreement with the Prefectures, only doctors had the authority to discharge patients. But faced with the choice of agreeing with Dannecker’s order or their own deportation, the hospital’s doctors complied. Three weeks later, Halfon was summoned under false pretenses to Drancy and arrested. In the summer of 1942, he was transferred from Drancy to the French detention camp at Compiègne, from which he escaped to join the Resistance in the Unoccupied Zone.

In the early morning of July 3, 1942, French police cordoned off Dr. Worm’s pavilion and in a quick, brutal surprise operation, seized 147 patients. The French Commissioner of the XIIth arrondissement, who had planned the raid the day before, entered the wards and demanded the return to Drancy of all Jewish patients. In less than an hour, men and women were brought out in their pajamas, bound two by two, and shoved into waiting police wagons. Dr. Worms wrote that when he arrived at his pavilion, the beds were empty and the few prisoners from Tourelles prison had been transferred to another pavilion. His department, the service médecine, which had functioned since December 1941, was declared closed. In an interview conducted later, pharmacist Pierre Dupont, a non-Jew and eyewitness to the roundup, recalled that during this incident two or three of the French policemen seemed moved, one even began to crumble, but most wore a hard and stiff look.

Several of the prisoners from Dr. Worm’s service died within a few days after their return to Drancy. The others were sent on the first railway convoy to leave Drancy for Auschwitz after the Vélodrome d’Hiver roundup on July 16 and 17, 1942, which is described later in this chapter.

Dr. Worms stayed at Rothschild for a while, but escaped through the Pyrenees in 1943 and joined the French Forces in Algeria. He participated in the Italian campaign as doctor-commander in charge of hospital services at Monte Cassino, and later in the French and German campaigns as a member of the command staff of General de Lattre.

Aryanization, UGIF, and the Rothschild Foundation

It is sometimes confusing to understand the administrative setup at the Rothschild Foundation. What should be kept in mind is that until as late as summer 1943, there were still many non-Jews working at Rothschild, and that the Rothschild Foundation employed hundreds of people. An état-nominatif, or personnel roster, dated May 13, 1943, lists 420 employees, divided by race (Jews, Aryans), and by nationality, for the entire Rothschild Foundation. Most of the doctors were Jewish, while interns and nurses were both Jewish and Aryan, and the rest of hospital personnel and staff was predominantly Aryan.

As for the hospital patients, they were mainly Jewish. Some were “free,” that is, not under arrest, and some were incarcerated. Until the end of 1943, there were no restrictions placed on the free Jews; they could come and go as they pleased. As the number of pavilions increased to accommodate Drancy prisoners, the free Jews and the arrested Jews were often in the same ward. If on occasion non-Jews were treated, they and the Jews also shared the same wards in the same pavilions. French police guarded the Jewish prisoners and one other category of patient: any non-Jewish resistants who were sent to the hospital from the Prefecture of Police or from the various Paris prisons to recover from police beatings or illnesses. All of the children at the Rothschild Orphanage were Jewish, as were the elderly at the Rothschild Hospice. (Colette Brull-Ulmann interview.)

A new administration had to be established to manage all these arrangements, because under the Vichy Laws, Jews could no longer legally administrate over Aryans, or act as hospital administrators. In February 1943, Henri Dupin, a retired hospital administrator from Assistance Publique, was brought in to replace Sammy Halfon as General Director of the Rothschild Foundation, and put in charge of all personnel. Dupin was eventually replaced in February 1944 by Madame Wiart, former Director of Trousseau Hospital, who received the approbation of the Gestapo. Both Dupin and Wiart were French non-Jews, as was René Magnien, who was appointed Assistant Director in charge of finances. These appointments were made by the Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives (CGQJ) under the second Commissioner General Darquier de Pellepoix, and served the purpose of aryanizing the institution.