Lyon is Tense As Barbie Trial Begins
Menu JTA Search

Lyon is Tense As Barbie Trial Begins

Download PDF for this date

A temporary museum of the Holocaust was formally opened here Monday to stand for the duration of the trial of Klaus Barbie as a reminder of the horrors of Auschwitz, Treblinka and other death camps where French Jews were deported 45 years ago on the orders of the then Gestapo chief known as the “butcher of Lyon”.

The inauguration was by 44 Jewish school children representing symbolically the 44 Jewish children from an orphanage in the village of Izieu, southeast of Lyon, arrested by Barbie’s Gestapo agents and deported to Auschwitz. The ceremony was attended by Mayor Michel Colomb of Lyon, former Premier Raymond Barre and members of the Jewish community, and about a half dozen government ministers.

The steel and canvas structure, standing opposite the city hall, contains hundreds of drawings of scenes from Auschwitz and other death camps. It was built at the initiative of the French Jewish writer, Marek Halter, author of the international best-seller “The Book of Abraham”, and by local Jewish community leaders.

The inauguration was timed to coincide with Barbie’s departure from his cell in St. Joseph Prison for the Palais de la Justice where his trial for “crimes against humanity” opened Monday morning.


The 73-year-old Nazi is transported to and from the court in a convoy of armored cars. Security is strict and highly visible in Lyon in view of mounting threats by neo-Nazi and rightwing extremists against prosecution lawyers and witnesses. Reporters from the Israeli media and Jewish correspondents have been given special protection. Plainclothes detectives are on 24-hour duty outside their hotels.

An additional 300 police were rushed to Lyon Sunday and several hundred more were due Monday as a precaution against street violence when the trial gets under way.

Neo-Nazis demonstrated here Saturday and Sunday. A group of black-shirted youths marched past the Joan of Are monument shouting slogans demanding Barbie’s release. They passed out leaflets claiming the Holocaust never occurred.

Police Chief George Bastelica is concerned. “Two weeks ago I was not worried but now I am. I am afraid of extremism,” he said.

Jewish community leaders have asked the Jewish citizens of Lyon to maintain a dignified presence and give no provocation.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund