Prosecutor Asks Life Sentence for Barbie; Verdict Expected Late Friday
Menu JTA Search

Prosecutor Asks Life Sentence for Barbie; Verdict Expected Late Friday

Download PDF for this date

State prosecutor Pierre Truche asked the Lyon criminal court Monday to sentence Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie to life imprisonment, the maximum penalty allowed by French law, if he is convicted, as expected, on charges of crimes against humanity.

Truche addressed the court at the start of the eighth and final week of Barbie’s trial. Presiding Judge Andre Cerdini opened the session by announcing his rejection of an appeal by Barbie’s attorney, Jacques Verges, that Barbie must be set free regardless of the verdict because of a provision of the law that the harshest sentence must be applied to a defendant sentenced more than once.

Barbie was sentenced to death in absentia in 1952 and 1954. Both sentences are covered by the 20-year statute of limitations. France, moreover, abolished the death penalty in 1981, and Verges argued that Barbie cannot be given the lesser sentence of life imprisonment and therefore has technically paid his debt to society.

Cerdini ruled however that a valid sentence cannot be superseded by one that is now invalid.

Sources close to Verges said he would carry his appeal to the Supreme Court.

In demanding the maximum allowable penalty, Truche described the 73-year-old Barbie as a “man who showed no pity while he was this city’s Gestapo chief and no remorse during his trial.”

“Inhumanity is not acceptable — it must be repressed by the international community with all the severity prescribed by law,” the prosecutor said.

He reviewed the testimony of survivors of Barbie’s brutality, stressing that they described “the inferno of torture and deportation.” and linked Barbie personally to those crimes.


The former Gestapo chief, known as “the Butcher of Lyon,” is accused of direct involvement in the arrest and deportation of 44 Jewish children to death camps where all perished, and the deportation, torture and murder of 800 others, mostly Jews and resistance fighters.

Truche depicted Barbie as a dedicated Nazi from his youth, who joined the Nazi Party in 1933, the year Hitler came to power, and adhered to its ideology of Aryan racial superiority and the elimination of non-Aryans.

The trial, which began on May 11, will end this week after Verges and his three associates will sum up for the defense. The jury will retire Friday and is expected to reach a verdict by Friday night.

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