NEW YORK (Oct. 27)
Allan Ryan Jr., the former director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations and the author of the exhaustive government report on the United States’ intelligence employment of former Lyon gestapo chief Klaus Barbie, said last night that he considered the Barbie case closed for the United States government.
“As far as the official act of the (U.S.) government is concerned, I would consider it closed,” Ryan told reporters at a news conference at the Park East Synagogue here. But he added that he expected the debate on the moral aspects of the U.S. post-World War II employment of Barbie to continue.
Ryan also rejected charges that the report, submitted last August, was incomplete or that it had been held up by the State Department because the report urged the United States to apologize to France for preventing Barbie’s extradition to France 33 years ago by lying about his whereabouts and then helping him flee from Germany to South America.
“There was never any suggestion from anyone at the State Department or Justice Department … that the report ought to be held up or that it be softened,” Ryan said. “Anybody who would have come into my office and told me to tone this down because it is too sensitive politically would have been shown the door rather quickly.”
Barbie was expelled from Bolivia to France last February where he now faces charges of crimes against humanity, for what Ryan said will be eight to nine specific charges of crimes he allegedly committed in Lyon where he served as gestapo chief from 1942-1944.
Barbie’s trial is scheduled to begin in the spring of 1984, and Ryan said he did not expect the United States government to be involved in the proceedings, although he noted that when the U.S. offered a formal apology last summer to France, it included a commitment to work with the French authorities. “As a practical matter, it’s pretty much in the hands of the French,” he said.
TAKES EXCEPTION TO ALLEGATIONS
Ryan took exception to the allegations made by Michel Thomas, a former Jewish French resistance fighter and former member of the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), who said that he had been personally responsible for gathering a file on Barbie for the CIC and that the CIC therefore had to have known about Barbie’s background when it hired him in 1947.
“I find it pretty hard to put any credibility in what Thomas says,” Ryan contended. He said that if such information had existed and was in Barbie’s files, he would have found it. “I found absolutely no indication that any such memo had been written,” Ryan said. According to Ryan, Thomas did not contact him at any time during the six month investigation into the Barbie affair.
Moreover, Ryan took exception to allegations contained in a JTA report last August written by Charles Allen Jr., an internationally prominent author/journalist who has been investigating Nazi war criminals now living in the United States for more than 20 years. Allen criticized the report as being incomplete and said that according to his documents, Barbie’s escape from Europe in late 1949 and early 1950 was aided by the Vatican, the CIC and the International Red Cross.
Allen wrote that Barbie “took the so-called ‘monastery route’ an underground railroad, so to speak, for scores of wanted Nazi war criminals. The route was known to the U.S. Embassy in Rome which did nothing to stem the flow of wanted war criminals from Europe, most of them originating in the American occupied zone in Germany.”
Allen further charged that Barbie, when in Bolivia, had been employed as a “contract agent” for the CIA for nearly three decades, a point which Ryan said was not substantiated by his investigation. Ryan wrote in his 600-page Barbie report that “it is my conclusion that at no time from the end of World War II to the present time has the Central Intelligence Agency had any relationship with Klaus Barbie.” CIA operations began in 1948.
Furthermore, Ryan said last night that he was unable to find any so called “Vatican connection” with Monsignor Krunoslav Dragonovich, who operated a “rat line” used to spirit Croation Nazis and others to safe havens. Whether Dragonovich had ties with the Vatican regarding his operation of the rat line could not be determined in the investigation of Barbie, Ryan said.
DESCRIBES REPORT AS A ‘SHOCKING REVELATION’
The news conference preceeded a dialogue Ryan participated in with Rabbi Arthur Schneier, spiritual leader of the Park East Synagogue, at the Minskoff Cultural Center.
Schneier, speaking to some 200 persons, said the Barbie report disclosed “a shocking revelation of the immorality of a policy that the end justifies the means. The continued procrastination in the prosecution of World War II Nazis who have found haven in the United States is a blot on the pursuit of justice in America.”
Schneier is president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation and chairman of the World Jewish Congress-American Section.