Klaus Barbie, known as the ‘Butcher of Lyons’, was in the SS where he held the rank of Hauptsturmführer. During World War Two Barbie spent part of his time in France where he assisted in the round-up of French Jews.
Klaus Barbie was born on October 25th, 1913 in Bad Godesburg. Both his parents were teachers and Barbie attended the junior school at which his father taught.
In September 1935, Barbie joined the SD (Security Service), a branch of the SS. When the Nazis attacked Western Europe in the spring of 1940, Barbie was sent to carry out his work in the Netherlands. In 1942, Barbie was sent to Dijon in France and then later to Lyons where he was appointed the head of the Gestapo in the city. Barbie earned his nickname the ‘Butcher of Lyons’ because he personally tortured prisoners for information. Barbie tortured anyone who was considered to be even remotely connected to the French Resistance as the SS and Gestapo could only successfully operate off of information – however it was gained. In April 1944, Barbie ordered that 44 Jewish children found at an orphanage at Izieu be sent to Drancy transit camp, just outside of Paris, from where they were sent to their deaths at Auschwitz.
After the war, Barbie went to live in Bolivia under the name Klaus Altmann. He was found by Nazi hunters in 1971 but he was only deported back to France in 1983 when Bolivia got a more moderate government.
Klaus Barbie’s trial started on May 11th, 1987. As it was likely that Barbie would be the last war criminal to be tried, permission was given for the proceedings to be filmed. In July 1987, Barbie was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison. He died in prison on September 25th, 1991 aged 77.