Klaus Barbie

German SS officer, head of the Gestapo in Lyon and convicted war criminal (1913–1991)

Nikolaus 'Klaus' Barbie (25 October 191325 September 1991) was an SS-Hauptsturmführer (rank equivalent to army captain) and Gestapo member. He was known as the "Butcher of Lyon" for having personally tortured French prisoners of the Gestapo while stationed in Lyon, France. After the war, United States intelligence services employed him for their anti-communist activities and also helped him escape to South America. The Bundesnachrichtendienst, the West German intelligence agency, recruited him, and he may have helped the CIA capture Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara in 1967. Barbie is also suspected of having a hand in the Bolivian coup d'état orchestrated by Luis García Meza Tejada in 1980. After the fall of the dictatorship, Barbie no longer had the protection of the Bolivian government and in 1983 was extradited to France, where he was convicted of war crimes and died in prison.


  • Perhaps you think that any fool could become a member of the SS. Do you really know what an SS soldier is? He is a superman. He is a professional chosen personally by Hitler. A soldier whose antecedents are analyzed for four generations back before he is given the honor of being allowed to join this elite organization.
    • Quoted in "The Butcher of Lyon: The Story of Infamous Nazi Klaus Barbie" - Page 140 - by Brendan Murphy - History - 1983
  • If there were mistakes, there were mistakes. But a man has to have a line of work, no?
    • Quoted in "Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press" - Page 184 - by Alexander Cockburn, Jeffrey St. Clair - Political Science - 1998
  • If I think of all those homosexuals in Germany today, I think I'd hand my German passport back, if I had one.
    • Quoted in "Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyons" - Page 23 - by Tom Bower - Biography & Autobiography - 1984
  • Don't worry. Your friends are dead and you are going to join them.
    • To Blandon from "Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyons" - Page 63 - by Tom Bower - Biography & Autobiography - 1984
  • I admire you, but in the end everybody talks.
    • To Lise Lesevre during interrogation, from the Saturday, March 23, 1987 issue of "The Philadelphia Inquirer"
  • When I stand before the throne of God, I shall be judged innocent.
    • Statement at His Trial

About 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.
    • Ennat Leger
  • ...pale eyes, extraordinarily mobile, like those of an animal in a cage.
    • Lise Lesevre
  • There is only one certainty in life... A strong man stands above and conquers all!
  • After 19 days of interrogation, they put me in a cell. They would carry by the bodies of tortured people. With the point of a boot, Barbie would turn their heads to look at their faces, and if he saw someone he believed to be a Jew, he would crush it with his heel.
    • Lise Lesevre
  • In 1943, when the Germans began to crack down on saboteurs in grim earnest, the Alliance network was a chief target. Scores of agents were arrested in successive waves. Among them were women tortured by Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyon," who burned their breasts with cigarettes.
    • Liza Mundy "Female Spies and Their Secrets", The Atlantic (June 2019)
    • From a review of Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson and other books on female secret agents during World War II. For the subject of Olson's book, see Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who was the head of the Alliance network (also known as Noah's Ark).
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