Open Road Integrated Media has reissued a Cold War chiller, “Klaus Barbie” by Tom Bower. First issued in 1984, the book tells the story of Gestapo commander Klaus Barbie, who lead the bloody repression of Lyon, France during the World War II. Bower is a vivid writer. He gives just enough detail to explain history and tell a thrilling story, without overpowering the reader with information.
Most disturbing is Barbie’s life after World War II. Recruited by American intelligence services , Barbie spent his immediate postwar years gathering information on Communist and Soviet elements in the American occupation zone of Germany. Meanwhile, Barbie was near the top of France’s most wanted list of war criminals. After he became too hot to handle and too difficult to hide, the American intelligence services arranged for him to travel to South America via a “rat line” run by a Croatian priest stationed in Rome. In South America, he joined some of the most notorious Nazis to survive World War II. Barbie settled in Bolivia where he entered business and enjoyed protection from the government.
The heroes of the book are Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, the French Nazi-hunters, who located Barbie and pressured France and Germany to seek extradition of Barbie from Bolivia. In 1987, Barbie was convicted by a French court. Barbie, known as “The Butcher of Lyon, died in prison in 1991 at the age of 77.
The recruitment of ex-Nazis by American intelligence is a scandal which must not be forgotten.