Many people in France during World War II wanted to disappear and Dr. Marcel Petiot was more than happy to help them… but their disappearances were permanent. Marcel Petiot (later known as Dr. Satan) was a French doctor and fraudster who operated in Paris during World War II. He is believed to have killed between 26 to 63 people, mostly Jews seeking to escape Nazi persecution. He managed to escape punishment over and over and would go on to be known as the most famous French serial killer.
Petiot’s victims were lured into his home under the guise of providing them with false identity papers and medical certificates. Although he would charge them 25,000 Francs, he also knew they’d be loaded with countless valuables — cash, gold and jewels.
Upon arriving, Petiot would bring the victims to an airtight basement, claiming it was a safe hiding spot. The supposed destination for these refugees was Argentina. Petiot explained that the Argentinian officials needed any new arrivals to be vaccinated. As a doctor, he administered the injection himself.
Of course, there was no vaccine. Each shot was loaded with cyanide. However, despite what we all think, cyanide isn’t always fatal. Since the basement was airtight, he dealt with any surviving victims by turning on the gas and suffocating them to death. He even installed a peephole to watch the proceedings.
A Macabre Mortuary
Marcel Petiot disposed of his victims’ bodies by dismembering them and dissolving them in acid. After killing his victims, he would use a saw to dismember their bodies into small pieces, making it easier to dispose of them.
Petiot then placed the dismembered body parts in a large metal container filled with quicklime and water. The quicklime would dissolve the flesh and bones, leaving behind only a sludge-like residue.
Petiot’s use of acid to dissolve his victims’ bodies was a particularly gruesome method of disposal, and it made it difficult for authorities to identify the victims or determine the exact number of people he killed. Later, he was officially convicted of 26 murders, but he may have killed up to 150 people over three years.
He left behind a macabre assortment of human remains, including 33 pounds of charred bones, three garbage cans filled with unidentified body parts, ten whole human scalps and nine severed heads.
A Slippery Fish
In the 1920s, Petiot was involved in several fraudulent schemes, including fake stock deals and impersonating a doctor to solicit money from patients. He was convicted of fraud in 1926 and sentenced to five years in prison but managed to escape in 1927 by faking a seizure and being taken to a hospital, from where he fled.
In 1943, the Gestapo discovered his network, believing it was a genuine method to smuggle refugees out of France. They forced a Jewish prisoner, Yvan Dreyfus, to pretend to be a Jew wanting to escape. However, Dreyfus vanished.
The Gestapo eventually captured Petiot and tortured him about his smuggling network, but of course there was no information to give. They did discover that he was murdering his clients but chose to turn a blind eye. The Gestapo may have seen Petiot’s activities as a way to rid France of Jews and other undesirables, and didn’t want to interfere with his activities.
Petiot’s killing spree came to an end in March 11, 1944 when a neighbor reported a foul smell emanating from his property. When police investigated, they found evidence of Petiot’s gruesome activities. Firefighters discovered a furnace furiously burning with a human arm hanging out the side.
This time, Petiot claimed his victims were, in fact, traitors and Nazi infiltrators. He was a patriot and actually aiding the French resistance. And the French police bought into this and released him.
A closer examination of the remains as well as the 2000 pieces of clothing and belongings left behind, revealed that the victims were Jewish.
The Butcher of Paris Captured
A seven month manhunt ensued with Petiot’s story and picture appearing in papers all over Europe. He was finally recognized in a Paris Metro station on Halloween, 1944. After a search, the police found him carrying a pistol, over 31,000 Francs and 50 sets of identity papers.
Petiot maintained his innocence to the end, but could never support his claims. On May 15, 1946, he strolled down Death Row toward the awaiting guillotine. When asked how he felt, Petiot replied: “My conscience is clear.” That was, because the man had no conscience to begin with.