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"the Butcher of Lyons"
Klaus Barbie was born in Bad Godesberg, in 1913. He studied at the Friedrich-Wilhelm Institute, where he became a member of Hitler's youth brigades in 1932. After graduating in 1934, he enrolled in the security services of Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Gestapo.
Soon after the outbreak of World War II, Barbie was promoted to Second Lieutenant and subsequently served with an SD Security Service detachment during the Western Offensive.
In November 1940, Barbie became an SS Obersturmführer and moved to Holland, where he served in the Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration. In June 1942, he was transferred to Dijon, France, where he took a post with the SD Security Service. He moved his offices to Lyons after the Germans reoccupied the city in November 1942.
Known as the "Butcher of Lyons," Barbie was responsible for finding, interrogating, and often torturing suspected members of the French Resistance. In June 1943, he captured René Hardy, a member of the French Resistance who had carried out several acts of sabotage against the Germans. Information obtained during Hardy's interrogation led to the arrest and torture death of Jean Moulin, the highest ranking member of the French Resistance ever captured by the Nazis. For his work, Hitler himself awarded him with the First Class Iron Cross with Swords.
In September 1944, as Allied troops closed in on Lyons, Barbie was able to escape back to Germany, after destroying every incriminating document in his office. After the war, he was tried in absentia and sentenced to death by the French government for crimes committed during the war. He was able to escape the trial and execution, however, because he had been recruited by the U.S. Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC). As a devout Nazi, Barbie had an intense hatred of Communists, which made him a valuable asset to the CIC, especially since he had first-hand knowledge of the whereabouts of many Soviet agents in Germany, as well as of their methods.
Barbie remained under the protection of the CIC until 1951, when the U.S. government deemed it prudent to have him smuggled to South America. Taking up residence in Bolivia (as Klaus Alttman), he found employment as the manager of operations for an international shipping firm, and became a citizen of Bolivia in 1957. Barbie was able to live a fairly comfortable life in Bolivia until 1983, when a moderate leftist government came to power and deported him to France. In 1987 he was convicted in Lyons for multiple crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison on September 25, 1991.
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This page was last updated on 06/17/2017.