The Drancy transit camp was an internment camp located just outside of Paris (six miles to the north). Because it had a nearby rail station this meant it was the ideal place to hold Jewish prisoners who were to be sent to the death camps, which were located across Poland. It was also seen as an ideal location because Drancy had originally been built to serve as a large public housing project, meaning it was equipped to deal with the large numbers of Jew who were sent there.
The Nazis first started using Drancy in August 1941, after they had taken Paris. The camp was suppose to be a holding point for 700 people at any one time but when it was at its peak it is believed that as many as 7,000 people. Originally, up until 3 July 1943 it was the French Police who were responsible for running the camp, but after this point the Nazis managed it themselves.
It is estimated that around 75,000 Jews, of which 11,000 were children, were deported by the Nazi party from France and a great many of these people began their journey at the Drancy transit camp.
It would take around a day and a half for the prisoners to be transported from Drancy to Auschwitz, with the Jews having to endure the journey while tightly squeeze into rail carts designed for cattle.
One Jew who made the journey, Felix Szmidt, recounted the journey:
“I will never forget the awful way we were penned together for a day and a half in the train. How people could do such things to one another defies belief."
But the conditions before they even stepped on the train were already dreadful; the Jews were subjected to terrible treatment while they were held at Drancy. And then, of those who were sent from France, very few returned. There were roughly 2,000 people still in Darcy awaiting deportation when the the camp was liberated by the Allies on 17 August 1944.
See also: The Sonderkommando
"Drancy Transit Camp". HistoryLearning.com. 2023. Web.