Klaus 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 Barbie ...
"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 information.
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 Americans. He was protected and employed by American intelligence agents because of his "police skills" and anti-Communist zeal - he penetrated communist cells in the German Communist Party.
With the aid of the Americans he fled in 1950 prosecution in France and relocated to South America together with his wife and children.
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. This caused the U.S. to offer a formal apology to France in August 1983.
Klaus Barbie, nicknamed the 'butcher of Lyon', responsible for the torture and death of thousands of people, was a wanted man in France and on July 3, 1987, he was finally arrested, tried in a French court and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died of cancer in prison on September 25, 1991.
SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Alois Brunner was born in Austria in 1912 and joined the Austrian Nazi Party in 1931 at the age of 19. His anti-Semitism was considered to be so extreme that he was swiftly tapped to be Adolf Eichmannís private secretary. As head of the Naziís Jewish affairs office in prewar Vienna, he organized persecution that forced thousands of Jews to flee to other European countries and the United States.
When World War II started, he sent 47,000 Austrian Jews to concentration camps. After organizing mass roundups in Berlin, he transferred to Greece, where he was responsible for deporting all 43,000 Jews in Salonika within just two months.
In June 1943, he was sent to France to take over the Drancy transit camp near Paris from its French administrators. During 14 months in France, Brunner sent an estimated 25,000 men, women and children to their deaths.
SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Brunner transported the children of Izieu to Auschwitz. One of the most wanted of all war criminals, Brunner was responsible for the killing of thousands of Jews.
He was often sent by Eichmann as a trouble shooter to areas such as France to expedite the Final Solution, the killings of 6 million Jews.
After WW2 Alois Brunner found gainful employment courtesy of Reinhard Gehlen and the CIA. Gehlen, Hitler's top anti-Soviet spy, surrendered to the Americans and offered his services. CIA took the bait and Gehlen re-established his spy organization, and enlisted thousands of Gestapo, Wehrmacht and SS veterans. During the Cold War Gehlen's network of agents received millions of dollars in funding from the U.S. From 1956-68 Reinhard Gehlen was Germany's Chief of Federal Intelligence Service.
Later Brunner escaped to Syria where he became a government adviser. To this day Alois Brunner - now 87 - has successfully evaded capture. He is believed to live in Damascus using the alias Dr. Georg Fischer, though in December 1999, there were unconfirmed reports that he had died in 1996 and was buried in a Damascus cemetery.
But last October German journalists visiting Syria said Brunner was living at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus. Brunner is easily identifiable, having lost an eye and several fingers from letter bombs sent him years ago by Israelís intelligence services.
With the release of Adolf Eichmann's memoirs, Alois Brunner, whom Eichmann once called his "best man," is again in the news. Brunner was already sentenced to death in absentia in France in 1953 and 1954; more recently, a new suit was filed there based on his sending children to Auschwitz. Previous attempts to persuade Syria to release Brunner failed. Germany applied for his extradition in 1987, and in 1991 the European Parliament voted to condemn Syria for continuing to harbor the alleged war criminal.
In 1995 German State prosecutors in Cologne and Frankfurt posted a $333,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the last leading Nazi still believed to be on the loose.
In 2000 rumours were circulating that Poland was preparing to seek the extradition of Alois Brunner. Until now the Syrians have ignored all attempts to extradite him, including those by Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, but apparently moods are changing in Syria.
Brunner was interviewed about 15 years ago in the Austrian news magazine Bunte. He said his one regret was that he hadn't murdered more Jews. In 1987 in a telephone interview he told the Chicago Sun Times: "The Jews deserved to die. I have no regrets. If I had the chance I would do it again..."
I recommend the books:
French Children of the Holocaust: A Memorial, by Serge Klarsfeld. New York University Press. 1,904 pp. 2,500 photographs.
The Children of Izieu: A Human Tragedy, by Serge Klarsfeld. New York, Abrams: 1984