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Barbie Seeking Political Asylum in Bolivia to Avoid Extradition to France

January 31, 1972
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Klaus Barbie, alias Altmann, the Gestapo “butcher of Lyons” during World War II is seeking political asylum in Bolivia to avoid extradition to France to face trial as a war criminal, it was learned here today. Mrs. Beate Klarsfeld, an anti-Nazi activist and member of the executive of the French League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, flew yesterday to La Paz to try to persuade Bolivian authorities to surrender Barbie. His crimes include the deportation of French Jews and the murder of Jean Moulin, the first head of the French resistance movement during the Nazi occupation.

Details of the international man-hunt were unfolded today in a Jewish Telegraphic Agency interview with Mrs. Klarsfeld’s husband, Serge, after the French government formally requested Barbie’s extradition from Peru. Barbie, who once headed the Gestapo in southern France, had been living in Peru after acquiring Bolivian citizenship under the name of Klaus Altmann.


He reportedly fled Lima last Wednesday after learning of the French extradition request and placed himself under the protection of the authorities in La Paz. Bolivia is one of the countries that has refused to ratify an international convention voiding the statute of limitations on war crimes. It has in the past aided Germans who fled Europe and refuses to extradite its own citizens.

Mrs. Klarsfeld has requested an interview with the Bolivian Chief of State, Gen. Banzer, her husband told the JTA. Banzer is of German extraction and has aided fleeing Nazis in the past. But Mrs. Klarsfeld apparently intends to argue that Bolivia would discredit itself if it refuses to dissociate itself from former Nazis who “soiled the reputation of the German people.”

Legal and political circles here said that Bolivia would be justified in cancelling Barbie’s citizenship on the grounds that he used a false identity to obtain it. That would open the way to his extradition as a “foreign wanted criminal” if France makes a formal extradition request of La Paz. Bolivia and France have good political and diplomatic relations. But the South American country is in a delicate position. Barbie is a part owner of the Transmaritima Boliviana, a shipping company in which the La Paz government holds shares. The country’s internal political and economic problems will probably determine its decision, circles here said.

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