January 19, 1983 – Butcher of Lyons arrested in Bolivia

January 19, 1983 – Butcher of Lyons arrested in Bolivia

Klaus Barbie, the Nazi Gestapo chief of Lyons, France, during the German occupation, is arrested in Bolivia for his crimes against humanity four decades earlier. As chief of Nazi Germany’s secret police in occupied France, Barbie sent thousands of French Jews and French Resistance members to their deaths in concentration camps, while torturing, abusing, or executing many others. Legal wrangling, especially between the groups representing his Jewish and French Resistance victims, delayed his trial for four years. Finally, on May 11, 1987, the “Butcher of Lyons,” as he was known in France, went on trial for 177 crimes against humanity. In a courtroom twist unimaginable four decades earlier, Barbie was defended by three minority lawyers–an Asian, an African, and an Arab–who made the dramatic case that the French and the Jews were as guilty of crimes against humanity as Barbie or any other Nazi. Barbie’s lawyers were more interested in putting France and Israel on trial than in actually proving their client’s innocence, and on July 4, 1987, he was found guilty. For his crimes, Klaus Barbie was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, France’s highest punishment.