Klaus Barbie (the butcher of Lyon)
Klaus Barbie was born in the village of Bad Godesberg in
1913. He was the son of a school teacher. While studying at the Friedrich-Wilhelm
Institute, Barbie became a member of Hitler's youth brigades. After
getting his degree in 1934, he enrolled in the security services of Himmler, head of the
Gestapo. In 1937 Barbie became a member of the Nazi party.
In 1940, Barbie traveled to La Haya as a member of a research
group with the only purpose of gathering information about the Jews "situation"
in that city. Then he went to Amsterdam and finally to Lyon, where he committed his most
terrible crimes, as head of the Fourth Section of the Gestapo. A dedicated sadist,
responsible for many individual atrocities, including the capture and deportation to
Auschwitz of forty-four Jewish children hidden in the village of Izieu, Barbie owed his
postwar notoriety primarily to one of his "cases," the arrest and torture unto
death of Jean Moulin, the highest ranking member of the French Resistance ever captured by
the Nazis. On behalf of his cruel crimes and specially for the Moulin death, Barbie was
awarded, by Hitler himself, the "First Class Iron Cross with Swords".
When the war was over, Barbie was convicted in absence and
given the death penalty. During the immediate postwar period (1945-1955) he was protected
and employed by American intelligence agents because of his "police skills" and
anti-Communist zeal. With their protection, Barbie, together with his wife and children,
escaped to Latin America, where he spent a long and prosperous career. Barbie established
residence in Bolivia, where he obtained citizenship in 1957. He lived there several years
under an alias (Klaus Alttman), working primarily as an interrogator and torturer for
dictatorships both in Peru and in Bolivia. He helped the Luis Garcia Meza narco-coup in
Bolivia in 1980.
The "butcher of Lyon", responsible for the torture
and death of more than 26,000 people, was a wanted man in France, particularly for the
torture and death of Jean Moulin. Though he was identified in Bolivia at least as early as
1971 by the Klarsfelds (Nazi hunters), it was only in 1983 that Barbie, left unprotected
through the coming to power of a moderate leftist government in Bolivia, was deported to
France. In 1987, he was tried in Lyon and sentenced to life imprisonment for his crimes against humanity. Barbie died in prison in 1991.
Bibliography (Yosef Yaakov,
"Escape Routes"., Jerusalem Post, 08-22-1996, pp 01.* John Felstiner, "One
by One; French Children of the Holocaust: A Memorial By Serge Klarsfeld", Edited by
Susan Cohen, Howard M. Epstein, Serge Klarsfeld; New York Uni., Los Angeles Times,
01-05-1997, pp 4. * "Hotel Terminus - The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie; Uncertain
Regard", Magill's Survey of Cinema, 06-15-1995. )