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On This Day… The Nazi Who Worked With Pablo!

Written by: George Chittenden : 30 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 19th January, back in 1983, when a former Nazi Gestapo chief was arrested in Bolivia. Nikolaus "Klaus" Barbie was known as the "Butcher of Lyon" for having personally tortured French prisoners while stationed in Lyon, France, during the war. Klaus was responsible for sending thousands of French Jews to concentration camps, including children, and executing many more. After the war he eventually surrendered to U.S. Counter-Intelligence Corps, but the Americans offered him money and protection in exchange for his intelligence services.

His life after the war is unbelievable. He spent two years working in Germany as a U.S. agent, during which the Americans protected him from French prosecutors trying to track him down. In 1949, the "Butcher of Lyon” and his family were smuggled by the Americans to Bolivia, but he didn’t live the quiet life. It’s believed he helped the CIA capture Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara in 1967, worked in the drug trade with Pablo Escobar and even had a hand in the Bolivian coup d'état orchestrated by Luis García Meza Tejada in 1980.

Lots of speculation surrounds Nikolaus "Klaus" Barbie. When the Bolivian dictatorship collapsed, Barbie no longer had the protection of the Bolivian government and in 1983 was extradited to France, where he was convicted of crimes against humanity. Klaus Barbie died on 25th September 1991, in Lyon France, the same city he had terrorised fifty years earlier.

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