Klaus Barbie was West German agent: report

17th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Notorious Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie was a secret agent for West German intelligence in Bolivia after World War II, German magazine Spiegel reported on Monday.

The former head of the Gestapo in Lyon was recruited in late 1965 in La Paz, where he was living as Klaus Altmann, and given the code name "Adler" ("Eagle"), Spiegel cited documents from Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), as showing.

The "Butcher of Lyon" used his connections with top officials like the Bolivian interior minister and the La Paz mayor to send reports to West Germany, and was noted as being "intelligent" and "discreet," Spiegel said.

Such suspicions are not new but the documents seen by Spiegel provide proof for the first time, and there are also indications that the BND was well aware of its agent's real identity, the magazine said.

The cooperation ended abruptly in 1966 when the BND became worried that the Soviet Union and communist East Germany -- this was the height of the Cold War -- might use his real identity to blackmail him, Spiegel said.

Also, the BND contained other former SS and Gestapo people who would have known Barbie, and its predecessor, Organisation Gehlen, knew Barbie's address in southern Germany before he fled to Bolivia, the magazine said.

Barbie lied by telling his handler that he had been in the Waffen SS and had fled East Germany in the 1950s, and the BND would normally have checked this thoroughly before hiring him, Spiegel added.

There are signs in what Spiegel called a "noticeably incomplete" BND report on Barbie that these checks were carried out, the magazine said, and suspicions were also raised when he declined to come to West Germany for training.

In the early 1970s French Nazi-hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld tracked Barbie down and France succeeded in extraditing him in 1983. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 and died in jail in 1991.

The Spiegel report came a week after the Bild daily cited newly released documents as showing that German intelligence knew Adolf Eichmann was hiding out in Argentina eight years before Israeli agents kidnapped him in 1960.

In 1960, Mossad agents snatched Eichmann, one of the main executors of Adolf Hitler's "final solution", in Buenos Aires. He was brought to Israel for trial, where he was convicted and hanged in 1962.

The head of the BND, Ernst Uhrlau, has pressed for years for historians to be given greater access to the organisation's files, and these revelations are likely to strengthen his case, Spiegel said.

© 2011 AFP

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