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‘butcher of Lyon’ is Returned to France; is Formally Charged with Crimes Against Humanity

February 7, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Klaus Barbie, one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals still alive, was returned last night to Lyon, the French city where he served as gestapo chief during World War II. He will go on trial for his role in the deportation of thousands of French Jews, the murder of French resistance leader Jean Moulin and other crimes which earned him the title “butcher of Lyon” 40 years ago.

Barbie, 69, was handed over to French authorities yesterday after his expulsion from Bolivia, a country where he found haven shortly after the war and obtained citizenship in 1952 under the alias Klaus Altmann. Upon his arrival in France aboard a military plane he was flown by helicopter to Lyon where an investigating magistrate formally charged him with crimes against humanity. If found guilty, he faces life imprisonment.

Although French courts sentenced Barbie to death in absentia in 1946 and 1954, capital punishment has since then been abolished in France and the death sentences have been voided by the statute of limitations. Meanwhile, he is being held in Montluc Prison in Lyon.


Legal experts say that Barbie’s trial will start in a year, at the earliest, as hundreds of witnesses have to be heard and tons of documents have to be studied. Legal experts also say that his trial will have to be based on his anti-Jewish activities since his responsibility in the arrest, torture and murder of resistance fighters is also voided by the statute of limitations and could be challenged in court. The “butcher of Lyon” is expected to appoint West German lawyers specializing in the defense of former Nazis, as his attorneys.

French individuals interviewed yesterday and today on radio and television networks generally said they strongly favor Barbie’s arrest and trial Moulin’s widow said last night, “What Barbie deserves is death. I hope someone will manage to kill him.”

(The Israeli Justice Ministry said today in Jerusalem that it has not yet received a formal request from France to supply evidence or witnesses for Barbie’s trial. Officials said that once a request is received, the necessary information could be prepared in a few days. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir stated: “I am satisfied that one of the known war criminals will be brought before a tribunal in France and justice will be done and he will be punished for the crimes he committed during the war.”)


Although Barbie’s whereabouts have been known at least since 1972 when Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld identified Altmann as Barbie from old photographs, requests for his extradition to France were rejected by the Bolivian authorities.

The former gestapo officer lived and apparently prospered in La Paz under the protection of a succession of rightwing military governments. But the new civilian government of Bolivia ordered his arrest last month on charges of fraudulently obtaining $10,000 from a State-owned company.

Barbie was stripped of the citizenship he obtained under a false name, and, with extradition requests pending from France and West Germany, he was ordered expelled, apparently to avoid prolonged hearings by the Bolivian Supreme Court, the outcome of which was uncertain.


His pending indictment for crimes against humanity is said to involve responsibility for the deaths of at least 11,000 persons including Jews and members of the French resistance. He headed the gestapo in Lyon from 1942-1944.

One document, found in German archives after the war, shows that he personally organized the arrest of 41 Jewish children, aged 3-13. All were deported to the Auschwitz death camp. He also rounded up thousands of local Jewish refugees and had them sent to Drancy, the notorious transit camp on the out-skirts of Paris, from where they were deported to death camps in East Europe.

Barbie will be the first major Nazi war criminal to be tried in Western Europe, outside of Germany, In nearly a generation. But Barbie’s trial could reopen old wounds and stir up a hornet’s nest in France. Barbie claims that Moulin, the French wartime resistance chief he is accused of murdering, was alive when he handed him over to the Vichy authorities.

Barbie also claimed recently in La Paz that many prominent Frenchmen were involved in the betrayal and arrest of Moulin whose death cause the complete reorganization of the top echelons of the resistance.

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