Klaus Barbie was returned to court here under protest Tuesday to be formally identified by six witnesses who recalled in horrifying detail their arrest, torture and deportation more than 40 years ago at the hands of the former Gestapo chief known as “the butcher of Lyon.”
After each recital Barbie, almost a bizarre caricature of the unrepentant, defiant Nazi, stated “Ich habe nichts zu Sagen, Herr President” (I have nothing to say, Mr. President) when asked by court President Andre Cerdini if he had any comments.
Barbie, on trial for crimes against humanity, took advantage of French law which allows a defendant to be absent from court when, on May 13, the second day of his trial, he demanded to be returned to St. Joseph Prison for the trial’s duration. But the law also allows the court to order his return, by force if necessary. In this instance, Barbie’s presence was required to permit a confrontation with former victims, who were not present at the pre-trial hearings, to identify him officially.
LEFT CELL ONLY WHEN ORDERED
Although the 73-year-old Barbie offered no physical resistance, he refused to voluntarily leave the cell in the court basement where he was held while Cerdini read the order for his appearance. Repeatedly, the court clerk returned from the cell to tell the three-judge panel, “the defendant still refuses.” Finally Cerdini ordered Barbie brought to the prisoner’s dock.
The first witness, Lucien Margaine, a former resistance fighter who shuddered as he remembered being tortured by Barbie and his cohorts for six consecutive nights, pointed to the accused. “I formally recognize him. Not only his face and traits, but the smile, this sort of rictus on his lips which he still has… a face like his, a smile like his, are unique. They can never be forgotten,” Margaine said.
The next witness, Mario Blardone, described not only his torture but Barbie’s cruelty. He told the court he had seen the defendant try to have a young girl raped by a huge Alsatian dog. Blardone, too, recoiled at the sight of Barbie. “This face … I want to look at his eyes, those icy eyes. Yes, Mr. President, he is the man I testified about,” Blardone said. Again Barbie offered his ritual “I have nothing to say.”
A 66-year-old witness, Mrs. Raymonde Guyon, whose husband was executed and who herself was deported, cried out: “This takes me back 43 years. Without his black SS uniform, his boots and whip he might appear like any other human being, but I just have to look at him to remember what he did.”
Barbie, unblinking, repeated his litany: “I am held here illegally and I am in court because I was forced to come. Legally I consider myself absent. I shall not answer any question and make no comment.”
NEXT FOCUS: CHILDREN’S DEPORTATION
On Wednesday the court is scheduled to hear testimony about the arrest and deportation of 44 Jewish children sheltered in the village of Izieu, near Lyon, on Barbie’s orders in April 1944.
Among lawyers for the many plaintiffs there are mixed feelings over whether Barbie should be forced to attend the trial. Some insist that he be made to face his victims. But others fear he might become an object of public sympathy. Barbie reportedly suffers from high blood pressure and inflammation of the spinal cord which makes it difficult to stand or to sit erect for long periods.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.