Klaus Barbie, "a
model of Third Reich savagery"
1) The Philadelphia
"Klaus Barbie: women testify of torture at his hands"
"The Butchers' Tracks"
[Posted 1 January 2004]
"Klaus Barbie: women testify of torture at his hands"
In 1944, when she was 13, Simone Lagrange
testified yesterday, Klaus Barbie gave her a smile as thin as a knife
blade, then hit her in the face as he cuddled a cat at the Gestapo
headquarters in Lyon.
Lagrange, her voice breaking, recalled the
arrest of her father, mother and herself on June 6, 1944, the day Allied
troops landed in Normandy to drive back the Germans.
Denounced by a French neighbor as Jews and
Resistance fighters, Lagrange and her parents were taken to Gestapo
headquarters where a man, dressed in gray and caressing a cat, said Simone was
"I was a little girl, and wasn't afraid of him,
with his little cat. And he didn't look like the typical tall, blond SS
officer we were told to beware of," she said.
The man, whom she identified as Barbie, asked
her terrified parents for the addresses of their two younger children.
"When we said we did not know, he pulled my
hair, hit me, the first time in my life I was slapped," she said.
During the following week, the man hauled her
out of a prison cell each day, beating and punching at her open wounds in an
effort to obtain the information.
"He always came with his thin smile like a
knife blade," she said. "Then he smashed my face. That lasted seven days."
Later that month, Simone and her mother were
put aboard a sealed train for the Auschwitz concentration camp on a horror
ride "which turned us into different people" and that still gave her
nightmares 40 years later.
From Auschwitz, where her mother was gassed,
the inmates were marched to Ravensbruck, where only 2,000 of the 25,000 people
who began the march arrived alive. On the way, Simone saw her father marching
in another convoy.
"A German officer told me to embrace him. As we
were about to meet, they shot him in the head," she said. "It wasn't Barbie
who pulled the trigger, but it was him who sent us there."
Ennat Leger, who lost her sight at Ravensbruck
after her arrest, was hoisted to the witness stand in her wheelchair by four
She was a Resistance fighter nearly 50 years
old when she was arrested in 1944, she said, and Barbie and his men "were
savages, brutal savages, who struck, struck and struck again."
"Have you heard of the Gestapo kitchens?," she
quoted him as saying, in an allusion to the torture chambers.
"The Butchers' Tracks"
February 21, 1983, United States Edition;
Section: International; Pg. 40; Length: 1721 Words; France; Byline:
Steven Strasser with Scott Sullivan in Paris, Theodore Stanger in Bonn,
Barry Came in Rio De Janiero and Bureau Reports
The old man settled quietly into a prison in
Lyons last week, reading German magazines and French newspapers, obediently
mucking out his quarters like any common criminal. But Klaus Barbie's past was
uncommon -- and the memories he summoned up were almost too repugnant to be
true. There was the "Butcher of Lyons," a Nazi sadist who could dandle a whore
on his knee as he ordered a victim alternately beaten then dunked into ice
water; the SS strongman who could snatch a Jewish baby from his mother's arms
and put the child on the train to Auschwitz; the Gestapo thug who could lock
100 teen-agers into their schoolhouse, then burn and dynamite it. At 69,
Barbie was to face justice back where he had dispensed terror. His case raised
awkward questions about who had helped him escape and reopened some old and
ugly wounds of war.
Barbie's record was a model of Third Reich savagery. While serving as a
decorated German intelligence chief in Lyons between the winter of 1942 and
the summer of 1944 he had a hand in 4,342 murders and ordered 7,591
deportations to death camps, by French count. French courts have twice
convicted him in absentia and sentenced him to die. Yet Barbie managed to
escape in the chaos of postwar Europe -- shielded at one point by U.S.
intelligence agents who valued his information on the Soviets, war partners
turned adversaries. He fled to South America and built a career flattering
strongmen and chumming with other Nazis on the run. When Bolivia's new
civilian government finally turned on him and handed him over to France two
weeks ago, Barbie was as unrepentant as ever. "What is there to regret?" he
told an interviewer after two decades in exile. "I am a convinced Nazi . . .
and if I had to be born a thousand times, I would be a thousand times what I
Old Ghosts: Barbie brought more than his insolence back to France. Old Nazi
ghosts came back to haunt the resisters and Jewish families who had felt his
boot in Lyons (page 42). The French press revived the World War II occupation
as front-page news. A chorus of fresh accusers dredged out the long-buried
cases of opportunists suspected of collaborating with the Germans. In
Washington the administration and the Senate began investigating any U.S.
connection in Barbie's postwar escape. "The U.S. was extremely powerful in
those days and also arrogant," said French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld. "There
were 20 [French requests] urging the U.S. authorities in Munich to surrender
him to the French authorities. They remained unanswered."
Barbie was a Nazi's Nazi -- loyal, brutal but not too smart. An indifferent
student, passed high school two years behind his class southwest of Bonn. His
SS file approvingly noted his "dark blond sleek hair" and his "consistently
strong, positive attitude" toward Hitler's National Socialism -- although it
showed one flaw: Barbie explained in writing that his wife's difficulty
delivering his daughter had prevented him from fathering additional Aryan
children as efficiently as SS policy encouraged. (He was eventually to father
a son as well.) His field record made up for any such personal shortcomings.
He joined the SS "Jewish section," went to The Hague, where he was promoted to
full lieutenant, and later moved on to Amsterdam, where Dutch investigators
believe he helped deport 300 Jews to the Mauthausen concentration camp.
In December 1942 Barbie was transferred to Lyons, the major Resistance center
in France's "unoccupied zone." Chubby but a snappy dresser, he soon set a
personal style as deputy commander of intelligence. At "work," usually in
shirtsleeves, he snapped his riding crop during questioning -- although at
times he punctuated his demands with blows from a blackjack, a rough cudgel or
a simple two-by-four. "He only stopped when you lost consciousness," says
Maurice Boudet, a Resistance leader captured by Barbie's men. "Then he woke
you up with kicks to the belly, the kidneys, the crotch. If that didn't work,
he threw you in a tub of ice water, with cubes floating in it. After the tub,
the blackjack: that made your skin swell up. Then he injected acid in your
bladder." When somebody bombed Barbie's favorite restaurant, he had five
prisoners machine-gunned and left their corpses on grisly display as a
warning. When some German airmen were shot nearby, Barbie opened an entire
cell block as if to permit an escape. As the prisoners ran, all 24 were gunned
Special Project: Barbie's biggest catch was Jean Moulin, the Resistance leader
handpicked by Charles de Gaulle to unite the various anti-German groups. As
"Max" or "Rex," his noms de guerre, Moulin had called a summit meeting of his
Lyons lieutenants in late June 1943. Barbie somehow got word of the gathering,
showed up with his soldiers and arrested the bunch. Barbie made Moulin his
special project. Gottlieb Fuchs, a Swiss national who served Barbie as an
interpreter before winding up in a concentration camp, was among the last to
see Moulin -- in Barbie's custody and alive, but terribly beaten. When Barbie
left, Fuchs tried to wipe the blood from Moulin's face. "I made a kind of
pillow out of the rags of his jacket so his lungs would not fill with blood,"
he says. "The man was dying. His windpipe was caved in." Barbie eventually
shipped Moulin off on a train to Paris, but the prisoner died en route.
As the war progressed toward Germany's defeat Barbie lashed out at entire
villages. Among his prime targets were Lyons's Jews, many of whom had fled to
the region for sanctuary after the fall of Paris. Barbie's secretaries
confiscated jewels and other valuables from people brought in for questioning.
Many Jews never lived to see the Auschwitz train platform. "Barbie packed them
into cattle cars with no food water," says Michel Thomas, another Lyons
survivor. "The trip took weeks, so everyone died. The Germans had to wear gas
masks to get rid of the bodies."
War Crimes: It will take the French courts at least a year to prepare for
Barbie's trial. The French have begun debating whether to bring back the death
penalty, outlawed by the Mitterrand government, for his case. Another problem
is to assemble an adequate list of charges: his conviction in absentia have
lapsed under the statute limitations. Prosecutors must make a new case based
on "crimes against humanity," a class not subject to limitations. Fresh
evidence is plentiful -- on the deportation of 41 Jewish children from Izieu;
the deportation of 80 rebellious railroad workers from Oullins; the murder and
cremation in a baker's oven of a World War I hero and four other people. A
trial based on a handful of leftover crimes won't do justice to Klaus Barbie's
record. But it will set a precedent for other prosecutions and help France
exorcise at least one Nazi monster.
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