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Witness Says Children Sang While Riding to Their Death

May 28, 1987

LYON, France (AP) _ Forty-five children sang in happy innocence of their fate as trucks took them to Nazi extermination camps where most would be killed, a witness testified at the trial of Klaus Barbie.

Barbie is accused of directing the roundup of the children from a shelter in Izieu, 45 miles east of Paris, while he headed the Gestapo in Lyon in World War II. He is now 73 and charged with crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors say he arrested, tortured and deported hundreds of Jews and members of the French Resistance to Nazi concentration camps. Barbie was not in court Wednesday.

A man who was working in a field in Izieu on April 6, 1944, said Wednesday that he remembered Barbie and the German soldiers driving up to a house that was being used as a shelter for children whose parents had been deported.

″He had a soft hat,″ Julien Favet, 72, said of Barbie. ″He questioned me, looked me over from head to foot. It was him. I swear it.″

Favet, who was not arrested because he was not Jewish, said he heard the children’s voices raised in song as they were driven away.

Favet formally identified Barbie in 1983, during the judicial investigation.

Of the 45 children and seven adults taken away from the Izieu home, only two survived - Rene Wucher, a child who was freed because he was not Jewish, and Lea Feldblum, an employee of the home who now lives in Israel.

Prosecutors say Barbie ordered and personally directed the roundup. The prosecution has what experts say is a telegram Barbie sent to his superiors describing the action at Izieu.

Sabrina Zlatin, now 80, was a nurse in charge of the children’s home. She was away when the Germans conducted the raid, but her husband, Miron, was taken away and shot to death at a German work camp in the Soviet Union.

″For 43 years I have carried Izieu in my heart,″ she said Wednesday.

Glaring at defense attorney Jacques Verges and the empty defendant’s box, she shouted, ″These 44 children, what were they? Were they Resistors? They were innocents 3/8″

Dr. Leon Reifmann was a medical student helping at the home. He escaped by jumping out a window and hiding in the garden, but his parents, sister and a nephew died in the Nazi camps.

Reifmann, 73, was among those who identified Barbie.

″My hope was to find a person who would have expressed regret,″ he told the court. ″I have not heard that here. My hope has been deceived.″

Barbie declared May 13 that he would not attend the trial on the grounds that he was kidnapped from Bolivia, where he had lived for three decades, in 1983 and brought to France illegally. The Bolivian government expelled him.

Barbie was brought to the trial against his will Tuesday so five witnesses could make formal identifications, but Presiding Judge Andre Cerdini ruled against a request that he be brought in by force every day.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

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