Barbie oversaw roundup, witness testifies

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Date: June 4, 1987
Publisher: CNW Group Ltd. - Globe & Mail
Document Type: Article
Length: 696 words

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LYON, France -- Reuter LYON, France A woman crippled for life by Klaus Barbie 's Gestapo aides said yesterday that the former Nazi stood by as Jewish and Resistance prisoners were rounded up to be put on the last train to leave Lyon for German death camps.

The convoy of Aug. 11, 1944, organized two months after the Allied landing in Normandy and during the twilight days of the German occupation of Lyon, is the basis of the last of three major charges against Mr. Barbie to be reviewed by the court. He is being tried for alleged crimes against humanity.

Alice Vansteenberghe, helped up the nine steps to the witness stand by police, said Mr. Barbie and four of his Gestapo aides were in the corridors of Lyon's grim Fort Montluc prison as guards rounded up women prisoners due to be put on the train.

The deportation of about 650 Jews and Resistance fighters to concentration camps only three weeks before the liberation of Lyon is viewed as the stiffest indictment against Mr. Barbie, who faces life imprisonment if convicted.

Before walking out of the hearings on May 13, the third day of his trial, Mr. Barbie said he was absent from Lyon that day.

Ms Vansteenberghe, 78, told the court she saw the defendant through a spy-hole in the timber door of her cell as Jewish women were reunited with their children before the deportation.

'' was in a Jewish women's cell. They were hauling them out but said to me ''ein, nein, nichte Jude''- No, no, (you're) not a Jew''- she said. ''hildren were returned to their mothers so they could be gassed at Auschwitz.'' Ms Vansteenberghe, who walks on crutches, formally identified Mr. Barbie by a slightly disjointed small finger and a lump in his ear she noticed during two terrifying torture sessions after her arrest a few days earlier.

''e has the same eyes, the same little lump in the ear, the same manner of not being able to join his little finger to the others,''she said. '' carefully noted his physiognomy at the time in case he had a facelift.'' A former doctor, Ms Vansteenberghe said she was arrested for anti- German Resistance activities and taken by the Gestapo on a hot summer's day on Aug. 5 to a room where a fire was burning.

Fifteen minutes later, she said, her fingernails had been ripped out and a thumb broken. Mr. Barbie later entered the room and helped his men hold her down on a table, stripped to her underclothes, as she was beaten and whipped.

Two days later the interrogation and beatings resumed, leaving her with five smashed vertebrae. '' could no longer walk. I never walked again.'' The same day, Gestapo officers dragged in her Resistance chief and burned the soles of his feet before her eyes in a bid to wrench intelligence from the pair. '' then understood why a fire was burning in the room.'' But the witness said that as a Resistance fighter, she had expected the worst and made no complaint. She was outraged, however, when she saw Mr. Barbie take a young woman and her child away, apparently for interrogation. She was also outraged by the conditions in jail, where people were degraded, forced to eat off the floor.

Ms Vansteenberghe, who escaped the massive, last-minute executions practiced in Lyon as the Resistance and U.S. troops closed in on the city, said she again saw Mr. Barbie in the courtyard of the prison several days later through a small window of her cell.

Asked by presiding Judge Andre Cerdini during cross-examination how she could be sure the man she saw was named Barbie, she replied: '' don't know if his name is Barbie, Altmann (his alias in Bolivia) or Dupont. But I know he was the man I saw.'' Of the score of witnesses due to testify over the next three days on Mr. Barbie's role in organizing the convoy, several have not identified him in the flesh.

Judicial sources therefore believe Judge Cerdini may order him to court against his will for the second time since he walked out of the trial.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A165202141