Barbie was born in Bad Godesberg, near Bonn, October 25,
1913. He joined the SS and later began a career in
espionage. In May 1941 Barbie was posted to the
Bureau of Jewish affairs, as an intelligence officer.
He was then attached the Amsterdam Gestapo and in
November 1942 he was posted to Lyon, France. While in
France he was to penetrate and destroy the resistance in
Lyon and carried out his task with unmatched brutality.
Simone Lagrange, a soft-spoken Holocaust survivor whose
family was exterminated, later recalled the arrest of her
father, mother and herself on June 6, 1944. Denounced
by a French neighbor as Jews, Simone and her parents were
taken to Gestapo headquarters where a man, dressed in gray
and caressing a kitten, said Simone was pretty. Klaus
"He was caressing the cat. And me, a kid 13 years
old, I could not imagine that he could be evil because he
loved animals. I was tortured by him for eight days."
During the following week, the man hauled her out of a
prison cell each day, he yanked her by her hair, beating
and punching at her open wounds in an effort to obtain
Another survivor, Lise Lesevre, recalled how Klaus Barbie
tortured her for nine days in 1944, beating her, nearly
drowning her in a bathtub. She told how she was hung up by
hand cuffs with spikes inside them and beaten with a
rubber bar. She was ordered to strip naked and get into a
tub filled with freezing water. Her legs were tied to a
bar across the tub and Barbie yanked a chain attached to
the bar to pull her underwater.
During her last interrogation, Barbie ordered her to lie
flat on a chair and struck her on the back with a spiked
ball attached to a chain. It broke a vertebrae, and she
suffered the rest of her life.
Another survivor, Ennat Leger, said Klaus Barbie "had
the eyes of a monster. He was savage. My God, he was
savage! It was unimaginable. He broke my teeth, he pulled
my hair back. He put a bottle in my mouth and pushed it
until the lips split from the pressure."
A dedicated sadist, responsible for many individual
atrocities, including the capture and deportation to
Auschwitz of forty-four Jewish children hidden in the
village of Izieu, Klaus Barbie owed his postwar notoriety
primarily to one of his 'cases', the arrest and torture
unto death of Jean Moulin, one of the highest ranking
member of the French Resistance.
Jean Moulin was mercilessly tortured by Klaus Barbie and
his men. Hot needles where shoved under his fingernails.
His fingers were forced through the narrow space between
the hinges of a door and a wall and then the door was
repeatedly slammed until the knuckles broke.
Screw-levered handcuffs were placed on Moulin and
tightened until they bit through his flesh and broke
through the bones of his wrists. He would not talk. He was
whipped. He was beaten until his face was an
unrecognizable pulp. A fellow prisoner, Christian Pineau,
later described the resistance leader as
"unconscious, his eyes dug in as though they had been
punched through his head. An ugly blue wound scarred his
temple. A mute rattle came out of his swollen lips."
Jean Moulin remained in this coma when he was shown to
other resistance leaders who were being interrogated at
Gestapo headquarters. Barbie had ordered Moulin put on
display in an office. His unconscious form sprawled on a
chaise lounge. His face was yellow, his breathing heavy,
his head swathed in bandages. It was the last time Moulin
was seen alive.
On behalf of his cruel crimes and specially for the Moulin
case, Barbie was awarded, by Hitler himself, the 'First
Class Iron Cross with Swords'.
After the war Klaus Barbie was recruited by the Western
Allies and worked for the British until 1947, then he
switched his allegiance to the CIA. With the aid of the
Americans he fled in 1950 prosecution in France and
relocated to South America together with his wife and
He lived in Bolivia as a businessman under the name Klaus
Altmann from 1951. Though he was identified in Bolivia at
least as early as 1971 by the Nazi hunters Beate and Serge
Klarsfeld, it was only in February 1983 that the Bolivian
government after long negotiations extradited him to
France to stand trial.
Klaus Barbie, nicknamed the 'butcher of Lyon', responsible
for the torture and death of thousands of people, was
tried in a French court and sentenced to life
imprisonment. He died of cancer in prison on September 25,
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