In March 1944, as the Nazis occupied Paris, the French Police and Fire Brigade were called to investigate a vile-smelling black smoke that had been pouring from the chimney of 21 Rue La Sueur for days. Inside the house, they were confronted with a scene from a nightmare.
The thick black smoke was rising from a series of wood-burning stoves throughout the property that were stocked with human remains. In the basement, they discovered a furnace with larger body parts and a pit filled with quicklime and decay. There were suitcases full of the deceased’s belongings, and in the other rooms, they came upon something like a factory line of bodies. This was not mere murder – it was methodical processing of corpses.
The homeowner was Dr. Marcel Petiot, an admired and charismatic physician. When questioned, Dr. Petiot claimed that he was a part of the Resistance and the bodies they discovered belonged to Nazi collaborators that he killed for the cause. The French Police, resentful of Nazi occupation and confused by a rational alternative, allowed him to leave.
Was the respected Doctor a clandestine hero fighting for national liberty or a deviant using dire domestic circumstances to his advantage? One thing is for certain, the Police and the Nazis both wanted to get their hands on Dr. Marcel Petiot to find out the truth.