Fear Ending of Prosecution of ‘butcher of Lyon’ May Set Precedent

An agreement between West Germany and France, requiring automatic new trials in West Germans courts for all Nazis condemned in France in absentia was feared imperiled to day by a ruling by the Munich prosecutor ending all prosecution of Klaus Barbie, wartime head of the Gestapo in Lyon. Barbie, known as the “butcher of Lyon” for his atrocities, was condemned in absentia to death by a French military court on Nov. 20, 1954. But Barbie fled to South America and reportedly is still in hiding there. The Association of Nazi Victims filed a complaint with West German authorities, who responded by opening an investigation of the case. The prosecutor, M. Rabl, ruled today a “discontinuation” in the probe. Sources here stressed that the verdict may have put in danger the application of the West German-French agreement to some 312 Nazis listed as within the application of the convention. The sources said there was a good possibility that such Nazis may argue that what applies to the chief of the Lyon Gestapo should apply for “smaller fry” among the Nazis as well.

Rabl held that there was insufficient proof against Barbie, a ruling covering a telegram sent by Barbie to his superiors on April 7, 1944, informing them he had arrested 41 Jewish children, 3 to 13 years of age, who were later deported and presumably gassed. Rabl held that “the fact that the accused had ordered the arrest of these children who were not, of course, destined for forced labor, cannot bring us to the conclusion that he knew the final fate of the children.” Sources here pointed out that the fate of the children was known at the time by all Frenchmen and German occupation personnel, with the remarkable exception of the local Gestapo commander. Barbie also is known to be responsible for the deportation of the Jewish community of the Lyon region, the torturing to death of the chief of the French resistance, Jean Loulin, and for summarily killing dozens of French patriots, some with his own hands.

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