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1983: 'Butcher of Lyon' returns to face trial
War criminal and former Gestapo commandant Klaus Barbie has arrived in France to stand trial for crimes committed 37 years ago.

The 69-year-old, known as the 'Butcher of Lyon', is believed to be behind for the deaths of more than 4,000 Jews, many of them children, between 1942 and 1944 when he was Gestapo chief in Lyon.

He fled France at the end of World War II and has been in exile in Bolivia for the past 26 years, from where he was extradited yesterday.

Barbie, who changed his name to Klaus Altmann when he arrived in South America, is also accused of sending more than 7,500 people to their deaths during his time in Lyon.

Death sentences

On arrival in Lyon in 1942 Klaus Barbie was given two tasks - to dismantle the Resistance and rid the city of Jews.

His crimes include:

  • The killing of 22 hostages, including women and children, in reprisal for an attack on two German policemen.
  • The deportation of 55 Jews, including 52 children, from Izieu, east of Lyon.
  • The liquidation of the Lyon Committee of the General Union of Jews of France and the subsequent deportation of 86 people on 9 February 1943.

France has made several attempts to extradite Barbie from Bolivia during the past 10 years since he was discovered living in La Paz by French Nazi hunter, Beate Klarsfeld.

Mme Klarsfeld's husband, Serge Klarsfeld, is president of the Association of Sons and Daughters of Deported French Jews.

The French have already condemned Klaus Barbie to death "in absentia", on two occasions for war crimes - once in 1952 and once in 1954 - but those convictions have now lapsed.

The death penalty in France was abolished in 1981 so the maximum sentence he now faces is life imprisonment.

It has recently emerged that the Americans shielded Barbie at the end of the war in return for information about the Soviets. He was able to flee to South America with temporary travel documents provided by the CIA.

One of the most prominent people Barbie is suspected of murdering is Jean Moulin, leader of the French Resistance Movement during the war.


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Klaus Barbie
Klaus Barbie has never regretted his crimes



In Context
Klaus Barbie was born on 25 October 1913 in Germany.

In 1935 he joined a special branch of the SS and after serving the German army in the Netherlands he was made chief of Gestapo Department IV in Lyon from 1942 to 1944.

After his return to France in 1983 he was kept in St Joseph's prison in Lyon until his trial in May 1987.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of 341 separate crimes against humanity.

He died in prison in Lyon on 25 September 1991.

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