TORONTO (Feb. 28)
Michel Cojot, a former executive in one of France’s most prestigious banking establishments, has revealed that in 1975 he had the opportunity to kill Klaus Barbie during a meeting in La Paz, Bolivia.
Barbie, who was the gestapo chief in Lyon, France, and assumed the name of Klaus Altmann when he settled in Bolivia after the war, has now been returned to France where he faces charges of “crimes against humanity.”
Cojot, born Goldberg, says in his book, “Namesake,” recently published by Yale, that he resolved to track down Barbie because during his days as the gestapo chief, Barbie had been responsible for the death of Goldberg’s father and many other French resistance fighters, including Jean Moulin, the head of the resistance movement.
In 1975, disguised as a French journalist, Goldberg arrived in La Paz and proceeded to interview Barbie. Barbie expressed astonishment that the French harbored any ill will against him.
“Why so much hatred on the part of the French?” he asked. “Me, I have nothing against them. My son is married to a French woman. I have stayed in touch with members of the Charlemagne Division — you know, the French who volunteered to join the Waffen SS. I even took pleasure a few years ago, in stopping off at Orly Airport.”
‘THAT WASN’T ME’
During the interview which was conducted in Spanish, Barbie told Goldberg that the French in Algeria had engaged in torture more brutal than his gestapo people had done. With regard to the deportation of Frenchmen, including Jews, Barbie is reported to have said;
“That wasn’t me, it was Eichmann. I was responsible for the struggle against the Resistance — in other words against Communism. The anti-Jewish struggle was the work of special commandos who hardly saluted me on arrival and departure.”
Barbie told Goldberg that deportation and other orders signed by him was merely bureaucratic paperwork and did not reflect his direct participation in arrests or executions. Barbie ended the interview by accusing Jews of having committed a great injustice by “settling on Arab land.”
There was no reply to Goldberg’s response: “Would you have preferred that they create their State in Baden-Wurtemberg?”
WAS UNABLE TO KILL BARBIE
According to Goldberg, the following day, armed with a revolver, he had another meeting with Barbie. Intending to kill the former gestapo chief, Goldberg placed himself in a position where he had the possibility of getting off a clear shot at Barbie. His view was unobstructed and the target unprotected.
At the present moment when he was about to pull the trigger, Goldberg relates that he was unable to kill Barbie for a number of complex psychological reasons, including a haunting quotation from Elie Wiesel that impeded his action: “Every murder is a suicide.”
Michel Cojot Goldberg is a freelance management consultant now living outside of Paris.