Beware Of The Rescuer
As a fan of classic films, my husband knows he can keep me spellbound for a couple of hours with a great masterpiece from cinema history.
Recently, knowing my proclivity for French films and the city of Paris, he found a newly-restored version of “Paris brûle-t-il?” You might know it better by its English title – “Is Paris Burning?”
I don’t like war movies. I’m an Army veteran (peace-time) and I’ve seen enough gung-ho and charge! In my time.
Yet this is not exactly a war movie. It is one of those sprawling epics put together with an international cast and crew of the biggest stars of the 20th century. It is the story of a city – Paris, a city I love – and the title is a quote from Hitler on the eve of the liberation of Paris. He ordered it blown up and burned so the Allies could not get it back.
It’s like the old melodramas where the villain has the heroine tied to the railroad tracks, and Paris is the damsel in distress.
Will Kirk Douglas and Yves Montand and Robert Stack and Glen Ford and Jean-Paul Belmondo and Orson Welles – I think you get the “cast of thousands” idea – be able to save the precious city from the pernicious Nazis?
Oh yeah — the script was by Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola and the French Director is really famous world-wide, even if our “Dumb and Dumber” cinema audience of today isn’t familiar with him — René Clément.
So obviously I enjoyed the movie – all three hours of it – and have thought about it a lot.
Then I noticed a news story shortly thereafter about a French doctor who lured Jews anxious to leave Paris with a promise of help to escape to safety. Then he murdered them.
He was a well respected physician by day, and a serial killer by night.
Marcel Petiot was, by all accounts, a witty and intelligent person of some stature in the community. Like most serial killers, his victim-total was believed to be much higher than the 27 people he was accused of murdering.
A long time ago when I was doing a radio show in Oklahoma City, I got some guests and some phone action about serial killers. I had not seen many of them back then; I needed guests who had written books and the like.
Since then, I think I may have seen a few. I still believe now one thing I said then — sometimes the death penalty has to be considered, simply because there may not be a way to figure out what these folks are doing, let alone get them to stop.
Okay, so this doctor was preying on Jews during World War II. He posed as a member of the Resistance and offered to help people escape the country for a handsome sum of money. He got them to write letters to their loved ones saying that they were leaving the country and would be in touch as soon as possible.
Of course, they were never heard from again. Many of the human remains were found in the doctor’s house – some burned, some in lime pits in the basement, and there are lots of creepy descriptions of what he did to his victims.
Truly, this seems to be the lowest of the low. I have not heard of anyone who masqueraded as helping people escape and then killed them. This man was super-duper evil. I am usually not obsessed by this time in history because it is simply too painful for me. I try to move on.
Compared to the brave Resistance fighters in the movie “Is Paris Burning” this man was sub-human.
Obviously this enrages me – not only as a Jew but as a doctor, too.
This is not a “mass” or “spree murderer;” this was not a one-time deal. This is someone who had some kind of excitement or sexual fulfillment that compelled him to continue doing his atrocities. His preference was clearly for one race — he was not crazy about Jews. Yes, a serial killer.
But he was not looking for the attention, the gamesmanship, the cat-and-mouse stuff that serial killers usually engage in. Often there is a desire to get caught; how do you get famous for what you have done if you never get caught??
Taking an academic approach: maybe these guys (more often but not always male) have actual brain abnormalities, for several structures that are part of the limbic system (the deeper, reptilian part of the brain) are thinner than normal. Several people have family psychiatric histories, drug histories, and the like – but then again, so do many pillars of the community.
Some are organized, some are not.
Dr. Jew-killer was systematic and organized.
What is impressive to me is that we cannot name a single characteristic that would separate him or those like him from the “normal.” This, despite some intensive study by the FBI when they set up a behavioral science unit about 40 years ago.
To those who were close to them, these guys seem pretty normal. Sometimes more than normal – charming, affable.
This horrible WWII doctor is chilling. To me, he is even worse than Nazis who ran concentration camps because of the seduction of victims into believing that he could help then and then killing and dismembering them or whatever else. Well, it must have thrilled or satisfied him at some level. He did have one of the easiest times in history to get away with this sort of thing — a Paris that was occupied with people trying to escape left and right and lots of people disappearing.
There is a type of personality called “The Rescuer” who tend to try to reform drug addicts, prostitutes, or other people who might be considered “strayed from the pack.”
Often, the Rescuer is a victimizer too, and is looking for easy pickings. Charles Manson was one such person, taking in street people and runaways and converting them into his cult.
Life isn’t easy. Children sometimes want to escape from their families, abused women want to escape from a tragic marriage. Even mentally ill people might be ashamed of obsessions and compulsions or other psychiatric symptoms.
If someone wants to help you escape from something horrible, check their track record.
I wish I had something more specific to say than …