Klarsfeld, Serge

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KLARSFELD, SERGE (1932– ), lawyer, historian, Nazi-hunter, and documenter of the Holocaust. Klarsfeld was born in Bucharest and moved with his family to France as a child. While he, his mother, and sister remained in hiding in Nice, his father Arno allowed himself to be discovered so his family, which was hiding behind a wall, would not be found. Arrested there in 1943, he was deported to Auschwitz where he died. His son never forgot cowering behind a wall, unable to defend himself, defend his family, or protect his father. Klarsfeld has a varied academic background with a degree in history from the Sorbonne, a law degree from the Paris Faculty of Law, and a diploma from the Institute of Political Science in Paris. While a student he met his wife, Beate *Klarsfeld.

In the middle part of his career Klarsfeld devoted himself to seeking out Nazi criminals who were successful in evading punishment and seeing that they were brought to justice. Working as a team, he and his wife, a German non-Jew whose father had served in the Wehrmacht, focused on Kurt Lischka, Klaus *Barbie, and several others. He located Alois *Brunner in Syria and traveled there to seek Brunner's extradition; in this instance, he was not successful.

The Klarsfelds were instrumental in locating Klaus Barbie in Bolivia in 1972 and continued their struggle to have him brought to trial in France for more than ten years. At the 1987 trial, Serge Klarsfeld was the first of many private prosecution lawyers testifying against Barbie, who was ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment.

Klarsfeld published a number of works, including VichyAuschwitzThe Role of Vichy in the Final Solution to the Jewish Question in France (1983); Memorial to the Jews Deported from France, 19421944 (1978), which includes the names and vital statistics of the 75,721 Jews deported from France to extermination camps in Eastern Europe; and The Holocaust and the Neo-Nazi Mythomania (1978). He commissioned an important work on the gas chambers by Jean Claude Presaac to deny any intellectual legitimacy to the challenges of Holocaust deniers. He presented Lili Jacob's Auschwitz Album in France and David Olere's testimony as a *Sonderkommando. He also wrote of the Children of Izieu.

Klarsfeld protested the execution of Jewish community leaders in Teheran in 1979 by going there to intercede on behalf of those members of the community still in prison, and in February 1986 he went to Beirut to express his condemnation of the execution of Lebanese Jews who had been taken hostage. He protested against Karazdic and Mladic in the Serb Republic of Bosnia in 1996. Serge Klarsfeld was president of the Association of Sons and Daughters of the Jews Deported from France. He led and initiated the Bousquet, Leguay, Papon, and Touvier cases. He revealed to the French public the crimes of Vichy and is seen as the inspiration of President Jacques Chirac's declaration that officially recognizes the responsibility of France during World War ii. Klarsfeld has been vehement in his defense of Israel and his condemnation of antisemitism is France. Both his supporters and his adversaries regard him as formidable and a man to be reckoned with.

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]