LYON (May. 19)
Police are holding a 43-year-old man who tried to enter St. Joseph prison with a loaded pistol Tuesday, apparently to kill former Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie, on trial here for crimes against humanity.
Police identified the man as Christian Didier, a former taxi driver. They said he told prison guards he was a doctor sent to give Barbie a medical check-up. A metal detector revealed the pistol in his possession.
Police said Didier told them he came to the prison “to avenge Jean Moulin,” the wartime French resistance leader who died under torture by the Gestapo. They pointed out that he is too young to have been a member of the resistance and appears to be mentally unbalanced.
The war criminal remains in his cell after successfully petitioning the court last week to excuse him from attending his trial. The proceedings are continuing, though with considerably less media attention.
Alfred Streim, of Ludwigsburg, West Germany, a prosecutor specializing in war crimes, testified Monday that it was Barbie who personally ordered the arrest and deportation to Auschwitz of 44 Jewish children sheltered in the village of Izieu, near Lyon, in April 1944.
He acted on his own without instructions from Gestapo headquarters in Paris or Berlin, Streim said. He said the fact that the telex message reporting the arrests lacked a reference number or the usual “In compliance with your orders of . . .” indicated a local initiative. The telex, which Streim pronounced authentic, was signed by Barbie.