Cogs in the Killing Machine #3
Nikolaus Barbie, known as Klaus Barbie, and later as the "Butcher of Lyon" was born on 25 October 1913 in 'Godesberg' which is now known as 'Bad Godesberg' within the area of the Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
On 26 September 1935, he joined the SS and took on a job working within the SS security service of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), but didn't join the NSDAP until 01 May 1937.
When the Netherlands was overrun by the advancing Germans in 1940, Barbie was posted to Amsterdam. He was responsible rounding up of the country's Jews and having them deported to the East. In 1942 he was transferred to France, first at Dijon, then to Lyon as head of the Gestapo there. It is here that he acquired his nickname, 'The Butcher of Lyon' and where he used torture to extract information from prisoners, including children. Barbie swooped on care homes for Jewish children in France, one such incident occured when he and his men seized 45 children and 8 carers from a child home in the village of Izieu, that was close to Lyon, they were all sent to their deaths in the east. Barbie was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Because of his activities against the French Resistance as well as for the capture of a prominent resistance leader, Jean Moulin, Hitler awarded him the Iron Cross (first class) in 1943.
When the Allied forces were close, Barbie and his fellow Gestapo officials fled to Bruyères in northeastern France.
A French court had tried Barbie in absentia for his crimes committed on French soil and sentenced him to death.
In 1947, Barbie was recruited by the Americans to act as an agent for the Army Counterintelligence Corps along with other Nazis, mainly as part of their anti-communist activities within Germany.
When the French authorities discovered that Barbie was working for the Americans requested they hand him over so that the sentence of death could be carried out. The Americans, instead of handing him over assisted him to escape to Bolivia. Whilst in Bolivia, Barbie changed his name to 'Klaus Altmann' and was close friends to high ranking Bolivian officials. He helped the Bolivians in arms-trade deals (and other menacing activities) and as such he was awarded the rank of lieutenant Colonel within the Bolivian army. Whilst in Bolivia, Barbie never look lost any of his zeal for National Socialism and was a hardcore anti-Jew.
In 1965, West Germany secretly recruited him within their own counterintelligence services. He was assigned the codename 'Adler' (Eagle).
A group of French Nazi hunters (the Klarsfelds) discovered that Barbie was hiding out in Peru in 1971 and this information was passed onto a French newspaper who published the story in January 1972. Soon after that, Barbie, under his alias gave an interview to a French journalist and when the journalist pressed him about Lyon and members of the French Resistance fighters, Barbie, trying to keep the deception going, denied ever being in Lyon, or knowing the Resistance fighters in the photographs he had been presented. Later, Barbie's fingerprints were extracted from the photographs which confirmed his identity, he was also recognised by a resistance fighter, whom Barbie had had dealings with whilst in Lyon when the interview was aired on TV.
Barbie returned to Bolivia and when the request to have him extradited, the authorities refused.
In 1983, the new government in Bolivia had Barbie arrested on an allegation of tax fraud, and quickly handed him over to the French authorities and in 1984 he was indicted for crimes committed whilst he was head of the Gestapo in Lyon. His trial began on 11 May 1987. On 04 July 1987, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. He died of leukemia and cancer on 25 September 1991, he served just over 4 years.