LYON, France — Klaus Barbie, the Nazi Gestapo commander known as the "Butcher of Lyon," refused to acknowledge his identity at today's opening session of his trial on charges of crimes against humanity, laughing and insisting he is Klaus Altmann.
The 73-year-old Barbie, who is frail and gray-haired, looked pale and a bit drawn as he entered the courtroom in handcuffs. But he laughed and chatted easily with his defense attorney and French-German interpreters.
A policeman removed the manacles, and Barbie sat in the defendant's box to the left of the three-judge court, gazing around the room packed with more than 800 reporters, lawyers, civil parties, court officials and members of the public.
Andre Cerdini, president of Lyon's Assize Court, called the roll of the 120 civil parties to the case and their lawyers as photographers and television cameramen recorded the opening of the proceedings.
Smiles for Cameras
Defense attorney Jacques Verges and Barbie posed smiling for the cameramen. After about 20 minutes, the judge ordered cameras from the building.
The 24-columned, 19th-Century courthouse on the banks of the Saone River was surrounded by dozens of police and metal crowd control barriers.
Cerdini asked Barbie to stand and give his name. Speaking in French, he said he was Klaus Altmann, the name he used for 39 years in South America. He said he was a businessman and gave an address in La Paz, Bolivia.
Charles Libman, one of the attorneys for civil parties participating in the case, told the court that Barbie was presenting himself under a false identity and demanded the defendant acknowledge he had previously identified himself to investigators as Klaus Barbie.
'I Will Not Answer'
Barbie responded in German: "I will not answer these questions."
After a sharp exchange between Libman and Verges, who said his client had papers only in the name of Altmann, State Prosecutor Pierre Truche stood and said there was no doubt the man in court was in Lyon at the time of the events in question.
"I understand the name of Barbie must be heavy to carry, and he might want to be rid of it," Truche said.
Convicted Twice in Absentia
Barbie, who spent four decades on the run and was convicted twice in absentia of war crimes, may be the last of Adolf Hitler's officers brought before a criminal court.
He was stationed in Lyon from 1942 to 1944 as an SS lieutenant and head of the police section in charge of deporting Jews to German concentration camps and wiping out the French Resistance during World War II. The southeastern city of Lyon was known as the capital of the French Resistance.
Barbie says he is innocent. According to his defense attorney, Barbie says he bore no responsibility for rounding up Jews or sending them to death camps.
France also on trial, Page 8.