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1987: Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie gets life

VIDEO : France gripped by the trial of the Nazi, Klaus Barbie

The former Gestapo chief in Lyon, Klaus Barbie, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity.

Nine jurors and three judges found Barbie - also known as the Butcher of Lyon - guilty of the 341 separate charges that were brought against him at the court in Lyon.

The 73-year-old was accused of deporting 842 people - mainly Jews - to concentration camps in Germany during the Second World War.

In one incident 44 children were rounded up from a farmhouse east of Lyon, at Izieu, and sent to their deaths.

A total of 373 of the people transported under Barbie's command died.

Surviving relatives of the victims filled the courtroom and heard Barbie's last-minute plea of innocence.


"France can try and shed its own responsibility"

Defence lawyer, Jacques Verges

"Barbie has been promoted to the rank of an expiatory victim, a scapegoat so that France can try and shed its own responsibility", argued defence lawyer, Jacques Verges.

Coverage of the trial in France has been exhaustive and crowds of people waited outside the court to hear the judgement.

The editor of Le Monde newspaper, Andre Fontaine, said: "It's a time in France where people are more and more conscious of the necessity of knowing something about history and especially about recent history."

The man they call the Butcher of Lyon has already been condemned to death twice for his war crimes. Both of these sentences lapsed as Barbie was living under an assumed name in Bolivia.

He was found by barrister Serge Klarsfeld in 1972, but it was not until over 10 years later, in 1983, that the Bolivian government agreed to extradite him.

Barbie's trial began on 11 May this year with Mr Klarsfeld as chief prosecutor.

It took the judges and jury six-and-a-half hours to reach their final verdict after they retired at 0530 BST (0430 GMT) today.

In Context
Born on 25 October 1913 in Germany, Barbie was a member of the Hitler Youth. In 1935 he joined a special branch of the SS.

After serving with the German army in the Netherlands he was made chief of Gestapo Department IV in Lyon from 1942 to 1944.

There is evidence that he personally tortured prisoners whom he interrogated and he is blamed for 4000 deaths and a further 7,500 deportations during the war.

After the war the USA used him for counter-intelligence work (1947-51), for which they later apologised.

He died in prison in Lyon on 25 September 1991.


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