Drancy: A Spatial and Oral History

Stephanie Hesz-Wood

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


One location in a town on the north-eastern outskirts of Paris provides the point of focus for this thesis. Drancy, the town in question, possesses a name now synonymous with the internment and deportation of Jews in France. From the summer of 1941 to the summer of 1944, 67,000 of the 75,000 Jews deported from France under Nazi occupation were at one time incarcerated in Drancy internment camp. In broadening perceptions, this thesis presents Drancy as bound to, but not defined by, this traumatic history.

Through a novel methodological approach—where a chronological spatial history is presented through an interpretation of oral histories—this thesis seeks to interrelate complex and contradictory narratives, confronting themes visionary, unimaginable, ordinary, and absurd. The vast building complex repurposed for the Drancy internment camp during the Second World War was, in fact, originally conceived as a model city in the early 1930s by French architects Eugène Beaudouin and Marcel Lods. It was named the Cité de la Muette. Following the war, the complex returned to its objective as social housing, which remains its use to this day. Through examining the narratives imbued within the Cité de la Muette over the past eight decades—stories which individually and collectively give form to its history—this thesis seeks to understand how such seemingly disparate layers interconnect: how the temporary interruption of a site (a repurposing distorting its spatial image) permanently transforms and realigns perceptions of it.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Stone, Dan, Supervisor
  • Cesarani, David, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Nov 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 14 Oct 2022

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