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The Devil’s Agent: The Life and Crimes of Nazi Klaus Barbie is a captivating and unique book that reveals the dark secrets and mindset of the Butcher of Lyon, his work as a U.S. and West German spy, his network of escaped Nazis in South America, and his nefarious connections with mercenaries, cocaine traffickers and military dictators. During 1942-1944, Klaus Barbie was a mid-level Nazi officer in charge of the Gestapo HQ in Lyon, France. His treatment of prisoners ranged from banal indifference to pleasure as he sadistically tortured and murdered his victims. After the war, what set him apart was the public role he played as an unscrupulous businessman and adviser to military rulers, and Western intelligence agencies, in close alliance with other escaped Nazis, while living in Bolivia. The unrepentant war criminal was the most important Nazi to continue operating as a public figure after World War II. The Devil’s Agent describes co-author Peter McFarren’s personal encounters with Klaus Barbie in 1981, when McFarren and his colleague Maribel Schumacher were arrested in front of the Nazi’s Bolivian home after trying to interview him for a story for The New York Times. McFarren obtained hundreds of Barbie’s personal photographs and letters from prison that have never been made public before. Beyond their historical significance, these shine a light into Barbie’s compartmentalized inner life: devoted husband, torturer, loving father, spy, adaptive businessman, anti-Semite, opportunist. Combined with extensive use of the wealth of historical materials released in the decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the authors connect the inner Barbie with his times to provide insight into how collective evil occurs. From crimes against humanity to Holocausts, it happens step by banal step. McFarren also worked on the documentaries Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie and My Enemy’s Enemy and wrote numerous articles about Barbie and the military regimes he supported. After an extensive, decades-long search by Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, Barbie was identified, captured and extradited to France. He was one of the few escaped Nazis tried and sentenced for crimes against humanity in occupied France. His expulsion from Bolivia to France in 1983 and his unprecedented trial and conviction generated tremendous publicity and deep soul-searching for a country that had still not faced up to its mixed record of supporting the Nazi regime while also resisting its occupation. The book also details Barbie’s family history, the role he played as a Gestapo officer in Germanoccupied France, his responsibility for the murders of more than 14,000 Jews and French Resistance fi ghters during the Nazi Holocaust, his fl ight from Europe after the war with the backing of the U.S. Government, the Vatican and the International Red Cross, and his settlement in Bolivia with his wife Regine and two children. In Bolivia, Barbie traffi cked in tanks and weapons and supported the hunt for the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla leader “Che” Guevara. He collaborated with cocaine traffi cking kingpin Roberto Suárez Gómez, authoritarian rightwing military governments and a network of escaped Nazis, paramilitaries and mercenaries from Europe and South America to overthrow a Bolivian civilian government in 1980. Klaus Barbie came to symbolize greed, inhumanity, hatred, abuse of power and collective and personal evil during the half century he operated in Europe and Latin America. His most sadistic and monstrous acts were committed during World War II, but it was in Bolivia that Barbie established a reputation as a cunning, ruthless and violent operative who acted without a moral compass. The Devil’s Agent serves not only as a reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust; it takes us inside the inhuman and merciless mindsets that were behind these crimes and continue to plague our world today.
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