Hotel Terminus: The Life & Times of Klaus Barbie
Title: Hotel Terminus: The Life & Times of Klaus Barbie
Author: HISTORY MILITARY WW2 DVD 940.5405 HOT
“Hotel Terminus” is a disturbing, lengthy (267 minutes!) documentary on the life of one Klaus Barbie, a Nazi war criminal who, after World War 2 ended, was able to escape the Allied authorities and escape to South America. Marcel Ophuls, director of numerous documentaries on various historical topics, is meticulous in his research; probably one of the best after-effects of the film is the way it shows the complexity of human motive and history, as moral evil is confronted and exposed in the aftermath of a great war.
This brilliantly constructed documentary presents the story of Klaus Barbie—head of the Gestapo in Lyon, France, during the Nazi occupation—by amassing interviews with those who came into contact with the notorious war criminal. The many interviewees speak at length (accounting for the documentary’s total running time of more than four hours), and an image of Barbie as both a real person and a symbol of evil slowly emerges. Those who knew him as a student profess to be puzzled over his later reputation, but a woman who served in the French resistance and was beaten nearly to death by Barbie solemnly recounts the hideous tortures he inflicted on her. Filmmaker Marcel Ophüls (The Sorrow and the Pity) spoke to a number of resistance veterans, aging Nazis, and even retired American intelligence agents who employed Barbie to spy on Communists following the end of World War II. When Ophüls conducted interviews in the mid-1980s, Barbie was an old man languishing in a French jail after decades of living comfortably in South America. Memories of him, and all the pain he inflicted, were still vivid. As the many interview subjects speak (some slam doors and even punch at the camera), their own characters and motivations are revealed, and the truly unsettling character of Klaus Barbie is exposed. —Robert J. McNamara