PARIS (Reuters) - Germany on Monday awarded husband-and-wife Nazi-hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld its highest distinction, the Order of Merit, for four decades of work bringing war criminals to justice.
The Klarsfelds created a database of deported Jewish children and won fame in the 1970s for helping to locate former Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie, known as the “Butcher of Lyon” for torturing and executing prisoners in France.
In 1968 Beate Klarsfeld famously received a one-year prison, later reduced, for slapping then-Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger in a confrontation over his war-time role in the Nazi propaganda effort.
“This recognition by Germany is gratifying,” she told Reuters after the ceremony at the residence of the German ambassador to France in the presence of friends of the family and fellow workers on Holocaust memory projects.
German-born Beate Klarsfeld said she had been largely oblivious to her country’s World War Two crimes before she moved to France in the 1960 and met Serge, a Romanian Jew whose father had been killed in Auschwitz.
Accepting the award, Serge Klarsfeld said the spirit of their work had always been “in search of justice for the victims and never out of revenge”.
German ambassador to France Susanne Wasum-Rainer thanked the couple for their contribution to “rehabilitating the image of Germany”.
Reporting by Tommaso Mazzanti; editing by Mark John