On this day: Klaus Barbie arrested

January 19 1983: a Nazi is hunted down in Bolivia


Known as the “Butcher of Lyon”, Barbie was the local head of the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France during the Holocaust.

Estimated to be responsible for the murders of 4,000 people, among his many hideous crimes, he tortured members of the French resistance and personally arranged for 44 Jewish children in an orphanage to be sent to Auschwitz.

After the war, Barbie fled to Argentina and then Bolivia, where he assumed the name “Klaus Altmann” and was rumoured to have aided the intelligence efforts of the country’s ruling dictatorship. He was sentenced to death in absentia twice by French courts.

However in the early 1970s he was tracked down by a French Nazi-hunting duo – husband and wife Beate and Serge Klarsfeld. Mr Klarsfeld’s father fought in the Resistance during the war and was deported, but did not survive.

It took them several years but they finally convinced the Bolivian leaders to extradite him to France in 1983.

After he was captured Barbie was put on trial for crimes against humanity in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison. He died in 1991.

According to a Der Spiegel report released this month, Barbie was recruited as a spy by the West German intelligence agency BND in 1965.

The role, which was paid, allegedly saw him file more than 30 reports from Bolivia, before he was dismissed over concerns that he could be a blackmail target for the BND.

What the JC said:The prosecutor will represent the thousands whose deaths, directly or indirectly, can be laid at Barbie’s feet, a stack of corpses ascending to the skies in a gigantic scream of agony, from mere babes torn from their mother’s arms to men and women almost at the end of their natural days. And beyond these lies the memory of the millions done to death by the system Barbie represented and of which he was so willing an agent. It is right and proper that, in the year which marks the fiftieth anniversary of Hitler’s accession to power…that the gruesome story of Barbie’s atrocities should be told once again.

See more from the JC archives here

    Last updated: 9:50am, January 19 2011