PARIS (Feb. 13)
Bolivian authorities were accused today of permitting the escape of the man believed to be Klaus Barbie, a wanted Nazi war criminal, as two French military judges were obtaining documentary evidence in Munich that would confirm the suspect’s identity. Mrs. Beate Klarsfeld, an anti-Nazi German who has been tracking Barbie, claims that a Bolivian citizen of German extraction known as Klaus Altmann is Barbie, the notorious Gestapo “butcher of Lyons.”
Altmann, who was jailed by the authorities in La Paz last week for non-payment of a debt to the government, was released yesterday after friends of his paid the $4,000 he owed. Mrs. Klarsfeld said that Barbie-Altamann still owed $10,000 which should have been ground enough to hold him in custody until his identity is established.
Altmann disappeared after his release from jail leading French news media to speculate that he smuggled himself into Paraguay, a country where many wanted Nazis live unmolested. Mrs. Klarsfeld, who visited La Paz in connection with the Barbie case earlier this month, said the suspect’s release was part of a tug-of-war between Bolivian Army circles friendly to the ex-Nazi and public opinion in that country which wanted him held in the interests of justice until his identity could be established. She hinted, however, that Barbie would be safer in Jail as “his life is in danger outside.” She did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, military judges Gaston Depierrois and Alphonse Parte received from the West German Attorney General, a file of documents said to include decisive anthropometric comparisons between the physical appearance of Barbie and that of Klaus Altmann. Also reportedly among the documents was the testimony of a woman who knew Barbie in Stadtbergen, West Germany, shortly after World War II. According to her affidavit. Barbie asked her to forward his mail under the name of Klaus Altmann when he emigrated to South America.