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Barbie Witness Found; Case to Be Reopened

A living witness prepared to testify that Klaus Barbie, former gestapo commander of Lyons, knew that the deported Jews were doomed to die, has now been found. The existence of this witness, a French lawyer, Raymond Geissmann, will most probably enable the West German authorities to reopen their case against “the butcher of Lyons” and eventually ask for his extradition. A French delegation led by the President of the International League against anti-Semitism (LICA), Jean Pierre-Bloch, and Mrs. Beate Klarsfeld is due to leave Friday for Munich to present the new evidence to State Attorney Manfred Ludolph.

The State Attorney had promised during a meeting with Mrs. Klarsfeld on Sept. 14 to reopen the case “on condition that a single living witness be found” to testify that Barbie knew what the fate of the deportees would be. Geissman served as director general for the south of France Union of French Jews (UGIF) during the Nazi occupation of France. Geissmann, who now lives in Paris, has made a written declaration stating that he had personally heard Barbie declare “whether shot to death or deported, the fate of the Jews will be the same.”

Geissmann told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he heard Barbie make this statement either at the end of 1943 or early in 1944. He stated to the JTA that, should I be summoned, I am ready to appear before the West German State Attorney to formally repeat my testimony.” Geissmann, due to his war time functions, was in permanent contact with Barbie and other high ranking gestapo officers in the south of France. He told the JTA that he was struck at the time by the intensity of Barbie’s personal “and fanatic” anti-Semitism.

GERMANY, FRANCE TO SEEK EXTRADITION

Following the discovery of a living witness, as Ludolph had demanded, it is generally believed that West Germany will decide to criminally charge Barbie and that both Germany and France will eventually ask for his extradition to stand trial. Barbie is believed to live in South America where he found refuge at the end of the war. Legal experts here state that the Bonn government can ask for his extradition and recall that West Germany has already obtained the extraditions of Franz Stengel from Brazil and of Dr. Hirst Schumann from Ghana.

France will most probably also ask for his extradition as not only is Barbie charged with the murder and deportation of tens of thousands of French citizens from the Lyons area but he has also to be sentenced to death by a French court for the murder of Jean Moulin, the man who during the war time occupation of France headed all the French resistance movements and organizations. Moulin, the only man who had managed to unite the Gaullists and the Communists in their resistance fight, is a national French hero. French resistance organizations are therefore also pressing for Barbie’s eventual extradition and for a second trial.

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