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France decorates couple who found Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie

France decorates couple who found Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie

  • 9 October 2018
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Serge Klarsfeld (right) married Beate (left) three years after they met

France's most famous Nazi-hunting couple, Serge Klarsfeld and his wife Beate, have received top honours from President Emmanuel Macron.

Serge Klarsfeld, 83, received France's highest award, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, while Beate, 79, received the National Order of Merit.

The pair began their mission to catch Nazis and bring them to justice after they married in the 1960s.

Amongst those they discovered was the notorious war criminal Klaus Barbie.

Who was Barbie?

He was a former officer in the Gestapo, Nazi Germany's secret police, whose crimes in France led to him to become known as the "Butcher of Lyon"

He was in charge of deporting Jews and others to death camps.

Image copyright Corbis Historical
Image caption Klaus Barbie on trial in 1987

After the war he fled to Latin America and was living in Bolivia when the Klarsfelds revealed his whereabouts in 1971.

After being extradited to France in 1983. he was given a life sentence in 1987 and died in prison in Lyon in 1991.

Who else was tracked down?

The Klarsfelds also tracked down members of France's collaborationist Vichy regime including René Bousquet, Jean Leguay and Maurice Papon.

Mr Klarsfeld escaped the Nazi Holocaust in Romania when his family moved to France.

The daughter of a German soldier, Beate left Germany in 1960 and married Serge in Paris in 1963.

The couple dedicated their lives to the pursuit and the prosecution of former Nazis by what they have described as both "legal and illegal" measures, forcing French people to confront the truth of their compatriots' widespread complicity in Nazi crimes.

  • 'Our hunt for the Nazis is over'

"Neither could have succeeded without the other," their daughter Lida once said, according to AFP news agency.

The Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, was amongst those who attended the ceremony in the Elysee Palace on Tuesday,