Klaus Barbie by Tom Bower

Klaus Barbie by Tom BowerKlaus Barbie: The Butcher of Lyons by Tom Bower
Published by Open Road Media on March 21st 2017
Genres: History
Pages: 255
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley

The true story of one of Hitler’s most feared and brutal killers: his life and crimes, postwar atrocities, and forty-year evasion of justice.   During World War II, SS Hauptsturmführer Nikolaus “Klaus” Barbie earned a reputation for sadistic cruelty unmatched by all but a handful of his contemporaries in Adolf Hitler’s Gestapo. In 1942, he was dispatched to Nazi-occupied France after leaving his bloodstained mark on the Netherlands. In Lyons, Barbie was entrusted with “cleansing” the region of Jews, French Resistance fighters, and Communists, an assignment he undertook with unparalleled enthusiasm.   Thousands of people died on Barbie’s orders during his time in France—often by his own hand—including forty-four orphaned Jewish children and captured resistance leader Jean Moulin, who was tortured and beaten to death. When the Allies were approaching Lyons in the months following the D-Day invasion, Barbie and his subordinates fled, but not before brutally slaughtering all the prisoners still being held captive.   But the war’s conclusion was not the end of the Klaus Barbie nightmare. With the dawning of the Cold War, the “Butcher of Lyons” went on to find a new purpose in South America, just as tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were escalating. Soon, Barbie had a different employer who valued his wartime experience and expertise as an anti-communist man hunter and murderer: the US intelligence services.   In Klaus Barbie, investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker Tom Bower tells the fascinating, startling, and truly disturbing story of a real-life human monster, and draws back the curtain on one of America’s most shocking secrets of the Cold War.  

I think that most people who have even a minimum of knowledge about the second world war know who Klaus Barbie is, at least at an intellectual level. One of the most notorious, or infamous Nazi figures, with a nickname like The Butcher of Lyons, he instantly evokes a certain image and emotion. As a student of history, I thought I knew almost all there was to know about this man, but Tom Bower’s book provided insights and information that I had either not come across before, or simply was not aware of until now.

Right from the outset, the book promises a look into some of the darker parts of human history, from Barbie’s wartime oppression and activities in France, through to his involvement with Allied forces after the war. The tales of the Operation Paperclip scientists is fairly well-known, but I was unaware that Barbie was involved in counter-intelligence activities after the war, as I suppose he was deemed to be a useful Nazi, and the Americans were willing to whitewash over his horrific past, much to the anger of the French and Jewish authorities.

Bower draws information from a range of sources, including interviews, or information from Barbie’s own words, to paint a well-fleshed out picture. And while I felt that the latter part of the story, post WW2 could have been better explained, I suppose that is a product of the limited amount of information which might have been available, as compared to the events of the war. Sometimes when I’m reading these types of books I get quite angry at what has gone on in the past, and if his activities as a Nazi prior to, and during the second world war did not serve to do so, what occurred afterwards certainly did.

In some ways I felt the ending was somewhat unsatisfying, in that a lot of information and tension had been built throughout the book that it all ended a bit too easily, and some of the description was a bit light on, and this may be for the reason stated above. However, as some of the post-detention story has been told throughout the book, this is not as book-breaking as it might have been.

This book is an excellently-researched, engaging read, and certainly expanded my knowledge about the events and personalities described therein.

I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Rating Report
Overall: four-stars

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