French Witnesses to Testify at Klarsfeld Trial

A Cologne tribunal trying Mrs. Beate Klarsfeld has agreed to hear six French witnesses on behalf of the Nazi-hunter who is charged with coercion and the attempted abduction of former Paris Gestapo chief Kurt Lischka. The tribunal reversed its previous refusal to hear the French witnesses following the intervention of President Valery Giscard D’Estaing.

At the President’s instructions, French diplomatic sources made direct representations in Bonn. The French witnesses had been barred from the proceedings. Although no official reason was given, West German judicial officials apparently felt their testimony would add to the political nature of the trial, an aspect they are trying to play down. The prosecution so far has sought to confine Mrs. Klarsfeld’s trial, which opened June 25, to the purely criminal proceedings against her and not let it become a forum calling attention to unpunished Nazi war criminals still at large.

The French witnesses who will appear in Cologne include several former deportees and resistance fighters. A major witness will be Jean Pierre Bloch, a former French Minister of Interior who is currently president of the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICA). The French witnesses are expected to draw the court’s attention to the lack of legal means to bring Nazi war criminals to justice and thereby speed up ratification of the Franco-German extradition treaty designed for that purpose.

Mrs. Klarsfeld, a German-born French national, was arrested on the site of the Dachau concentration camp on April 17, Holocaust Day. She had, in fact, invited arrest by appearing on German soil. She is accused of attempting to kidnap Lischka in 1971 and bring him to France where he is under sentence of death for murdering Jews. Mrs. Klarsfeld is not Jewish. While the West German press in general has been hostile to Mrs. Klarsfeld, labeling her zeal in tracking down Nazis as “pathological,” she has received massive support from anti-Nazi groups and individuals in Germany and abroad, Judge Viktor de Somoskoeoy threatened at one point last week to eject the public from the court after they applauded when Mrs. Klarsfeld described herself as “a decent German trying to rehabilitate my people.”

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