WWII's French Serial Killer Doctor and Other Forgotten Monsters From History

French soldiers on the Western Front in WWI. RFI

39. Trench Warfare and Preexisting Mental Illnesses are a Bad Mix

Marcel Petiot’s violent behavior and numerous brushes with the law got him expelled from multiple schools, and he had to complete his education in a special academy for troubled youth. He joined the French Army during World War I, but between the horrors of trench warfare, in which he was wounded and gassed, and his already troubled psyche, Petiot suffered a nervous breakdown. He was sent to a series of rest homes, where he got arrested multiple times for stealing morphine, wallets, blankets, photos, and letters.

Petiot ended up in military jail for a while, before he was sent to a psychiatric hospital. There, he was diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses. Some of the examiners thought he was a menace and wanted him institutionalized, but they were overruled. In hindsight, their recommendations should have been heeded. Eventually, Petitot was discharged from the military with a disability pension.