Klarsfeld, Beate Auguste°

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KLARSFELD, BEATE AUGUSTE ° (née Kunzel ; 1939– ), anti-Nazi, Nazi hunter responsible for bringing Klaus *Barbie to justice, pro-Israel activist. Beate Klarsfeld was born in Berlin to a Protestant family, her father had served in the Wehrmacht. She began her working career as a secretary. In 1960 she went to Paris, where in 1963 she married a Jewish lawyer, Serge *Klarsfeld, a Holocaust survivor.

Beate Klarsfeld took a deep interest in the Holocaust and into the efforts necessary to locate Nazi war criminals and bring them to justice. Together with her husband she wrote in 1967 a series of articles in the newspaper Combat in which they attacked Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger of Germany for his Nazi past. For this series Beate was dismissed by the French-German Youth Office.

In November 1968, at a Christian Democrat party rally, she went to the podium and slapped the chancellor, calling him a "Nazi criminal." For this act Mrs. Klarsfeld was sentenced to one year in prison. She successfully fought against the appointment of a former Nazi diplomat, Ernst Aschenbach, to the Commission of the European Economic Community as representative of the German Federal Republic and led a four-year campaign in which she succeeded in having the Bundestag ratify the Franco-German judicial convention of 1971, authorizing the trial in Germany of directors of the Nazi police system who had been active in France. Beate Klarsfeld devoted other efforts toward the bringing to justice of Kurt Lischka, one of the persons responsible for the deportation of the Jews of France; he was convicted in 1980 and sentenced to a long prison term.

As a Nazi hunter she had three tasks: to locate the war criminal, to convince the country in which he resided to deport him, and to convince the appropriate country to try them. Beate Klarsfeld carried her endeavors to South America, where she worked undauntedly even in the face of dictatorships: in 1972 in Bolivia, where she located Klaus Barbie; in 1977 in Argentina and Uruguay, where she protested repressive measures and the use of torture; and in 1984 in Chile and 1985 in Paraguay. In 1986 she campaigned vociferously against Kurt Waldheim's candidacy for president of Austria because of his Nazi past. She was arrested in Warsaw in 1970 and in Prague in 1971 for protesting against antisemitism and repression.

Klarsfeld also held personal protests in Middle Eastern countries. She went to Damascus after the Six-Day War to obtain a list of the Israeli prisoners held by the Syrians and to protest the conditions of the Syrian Jews, and in 1974 was arrested in Rabat at the October summit meeting of the Arab countries for distributing tracts calling for peace between Israel and the Arab states. In early 1986 she spent a month in west Beirut, offering to substitute herself for the Lebanese Jewish hostages held by terrorists.

Beate and Serge Klarsfeld were the targets of a much publicized car bombing at their home in France on July 9, 1979. No one was in the car when the bomb went off and no one was injured in the blast. The odessa organization took credit for the attack and demanded that they stop pursuing Nazis.

The Klarsfelds' anti-Nazi campaign was dramatized in a 1986 film titled Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story starring Farrah Fawcett as Beate and Tom Conti as Serge. She and her husband have been the recipients of numerous prestigious awards in recognition of the importance of their activities.


B. Karsfeld: A Portrait in the First Person (video recording, 1994).