Former Resistance Messenger Testifies Barbie Beat Him
LYON, France (AP) _ A man who said he was arrested and escaped three times as a teen-age messenger for the Resistance testified Wednesday that former Lyon Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie beat him so hard he passed out.
″Barbie told those who had already interrogated me that he would show them how to make me talk,″ Lazare Pitkowicz said during Barbie’s trial on charges of World War II crimes against humanity. ″He took his crop and beat me on sensitive parts of my body. I was lucky to have fainted.″
Pitkowicz, 59, who lost his parents and his two sisters during the Nazi occupation of France, was asked if there were any differences in the interrogation methods of the Gestapo and the French militiamen who collaborated with them.
″In the course of interrogation by Barbie’s Gestapo, the aim seemed to be to diminish me,″ he said. ″I did not meet this same aspect in the face of the militia.″
Barbie, 73, a former SS officer known as the ″Butcher of Lyon,″ is accused of arresting, torturing and deporting hundreds of Jews and French Resistance fighters to Nazi death camps as head of the local Gestapo from 1942 to 1944.
Six people testified in court Wednesday. They were called as ″general interest″ witnesses to describe their sufferings at the hands of the Nazis. Pitkowicz was the only one who said he had been a victim of Barbie.
Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier, 74, a former Communist deputy in the French National Assembly and a Resistance member, said she was arrested in February 1942 and sent to Auschwitz.
In August 1944, she watched as a trainload of Hungarian Jews arrived at the death camp in occupied Poland.
″I saw the SS get the deportees out, put women, children and old people on one side and on the other men aged from 18 to 45 who appeared in good health. Less than an hour later, we could see the huge flames coming out of the crematory ovens.″
She also described how she saw children thrown alive into the flames because the gas chambers were full.
″The babies of Jewish mothers were drowned at birth,″ she said. ″If the mothers were not Jews, they could keep their children. But the babies died at the end of four weeks.″