NEW YORK (May. 9)
The government of Bolivia has disclosed that Klaus Barbie, “the butcher of Lyon, ” was delivered to French authorities last February because of “his crimes against humanity” and that his years in Bolivia were made possible by the complicity of former high officials in the government and in the armed forces, the World Jewish Congress reported today. The disclosure was made in a letter from Bolivia’s Ambassador to the United States, Mariano Baptista Gumucio, to Dr. Gerhart Riegner, Secretary-General of the World Jewish Congress.
Barbie, who was living in Bolivia under the alias Klaus Altmann, is currently awaiting trial in France for his participation in the deportation of thousands of French Jews, the murder of French resistance leader Jean Moulin and other crimes committed while he served as Gestapo Chief of Lyon during the Nazi occupation of France. Under the Altmann alias he obtained citizenship in Bolivia in 1952.
Barbie was arrested by Bolivian authorities on January 25, charged with a local criminal offense–fraudulently obtaining ten thousand dollars from a state owned mining company. The grounds for his expulsion one week later, according to Bolivian officials, were based on violations of immigration laws in having entered the country without proper identification.
In his letter, Baptista Gumucio made it clear that Barbie was handed over to France for “ethical and political reasons,” so as to “bring him to justice for his crimes against humanity at the place where they were committed. ” In addition, he stated that the action was only possible following election of a democratic government in Bolivia in October 1982, following 18 years of military regimes.
Baptista Gumucio stated, “Barbie and other ex-Nazis were able to reside in Bolivia by changing their identities, which they could not have done without the complicity of government officials and members of the armed forces who sympathized with Nazism.”
The Ambassador stressed “that Bolivia was one of the few countries in the world that accepted the Jewish persons persecuted by Hitler, in the years just prior to World War II.”