An evil Nazi officer was dubbed the “Butcher of Lyon” for his horrific crimes that included the murder of over 14,000 people and deportation of 7,500 others.
Klaus Barbie joined the SS in 1935 at the age of 22 and began working in its security service, which acted as the intelligence-gathering arm of the Nazi Party.
After the German conquest of France, he was assigned to Lyon as the head of the Gestapo in 1942.
During his time in Lyon, he personally tortured adult and child prisoners and became known as the “Butcher of Lyon” for his sick volume of crimes.
In one shocking example of his despicable crimes, he is reported to have skinned a French Resistance leader and doused his head with ammonia and cold water, causing such severe burns that he could not sit or stand for three days, resulting in his death.
In 1943, he was awarded the Iron Cross (First Class) by Adolf Hitler for his campaign against the French Resistance and the capture of Jean Moulin – a high-ranking member of the French Resistance and his most prominent captive.
In another horrifying act, Barbie ordered the deportation of a group of 44 Jewish children from an orphanage to the infamous concentration camp at Auschwitz in 1944.
Despite the extent of his heinous crimes, the “Butcher of Lyon” seemed to have escaped justice following the fall of Nazi Germany and was used by the Americans to further anti-communist efforts in Europe.
Despite French pleas for his extradition with the aim of executing him for his crimes, the US allegedly refused to hand him over and helped him flee to Bolivia in South America in 1951.
According to historian Robert Wolfe, the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) refused to give him up to the French because they deemed that Barbie knew too much about the network of German spies the CIC had planted in European communist organisations and were suspicious of communist influence within the French government.
He also claims that their protection of Barbie may have also been in order to avoid the embarrassment of having recruited him in the first place.
During his three decades in the South American country, he lived a good life under the alias of Klaus Altmann and collaborated with the regime of General Barrientos, helping them with their political repression against leftist groups.
In 1972, under General Banzer, he assisted in illegal arrests, interrogations and murders of opposition and progressive groups, including journalists and activists who wrote or spoke about the regime’s crimes against human rights.
Barbie also met with infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar in the late 1970s and agreed to arrange for security of Escobar’s raw coca supply, from its cultivation until it reached processing plants in Colombia.
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Despite being identified and interviewed by a French journalist in 1972, the Bolivian government refused to extradite him to France where he had been sentenced to death twice in absentia, claiming that Bolivia did not have an extradition treaty with France and that the statute of limitations on his crimes had expired.
Over a decade later though, on January 19, 1983, the newly elected democratic government arrested Barbie on the pretext of owing the government 10,000 dollars for goods he was supposed to have shipped but did not and a few days later, he was handed over to the French to stand trial.
His jury trial started in 1987 and he was tried on 41 separate counts of crimes against humanity, based on the depositions of 730 Jews and French Resistance survivors who described how he tortured and murdered prisoners.
During his trial, the “Butcher of Lyon” said: “When I stand before the throne of God, I shall be judged innocent.”
Two months after the start of the trial, Barbie was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment after capital punishment was abolished in France in 1981.
He died four years later at the age of 77, due to leukaemia and spine and prostate cancer.