Beate Klarsfeld: French journalist, Nazi hunter, and historian (1939-) | Biography, Filmography, Bibliography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Beate Klarsfeld
French journalist, Nazi hunter, and historian

Beate Klarsfeld

Beate Klarsfeld
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro French journalist, Nazi hunter, and historian
Known for Pétrarque Prize
A.K.A. Beate Kunzel
Is Journalist Writer Non-fiction writer Activist Politician
From France Germany Israel
Field Activism Journalism Literature Politics
Gender female
Birth 13 February 1939, Berlin, Margraviate of Brandenburg
Age 84 years
Star sign Aquarius
Politics Social Democratic Party of Germany
Spouse: Serge Klarsfeld
Children: Arno Klarsfeld
The details (from wikipedia)


Beate Auguste Klarsfeld (née Künzel; born 13 February 1939 in Berlin) is a Franco-German journalist who, along with her French husband, Serge, became famous for their investigation and documentation of numerous Nazi war criminals, including Kurt Lischka, Alois Brunner, Klaus Barbie, Ernst Ehlers, Kurt Asche, amongst others.

In March 2012, she was a candidate for The Left in the 2012 German presidential election against Joachim Gauck, which she lost 126 to 991.


Early life

Klarsfeld is the only child of Helen and Kurt Künzel, who was an insurance clerk. Her parents were not Nazis, according to Klarsfeld; however, they had voted for Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler. Her father was drafted in the summer of 1939 into the infantry. From the summer of 1940, he fought with his unit in France and was moved in 1941 to the eastern front. In the following winter, because he had contracted double pneumonia, he was transferred back to Germany and worked as an accountant. Beate spent several months in Łódź with her godfather, who was a Nazi official.

The Berlin apartment in which she lived was bombed and relatives in Sandau gave shelter to Beate and her mother. In 1945, her father was released from British captivity and joined them. The house and property in Sandau were seized by the Polish government, and the family returned to Berlin. From the age of about fourteen years, Beate began frequently to argue with her parents, because they did not feel responsible for the Nazi era and regretted the injustices and material losses they suffered, and while blaming the Russians, felt no sympathy for other countries.

Move to Paris

Klarsfeld with her husband Serge visiting Jerusalem (2007)

In 1960, Beate Künzel spent a year as an au pair in Paris. By her own admission, at that time politics and history were completely foreign to her. However, in Paris she was confronted with the consequences of The Holocaust. In 1963, she married the French lawyer and historian Serge Klarsfeld, whose father was a victim of the Auschwitz concentration camp exterminations. Klarsfeld said that her husband helped her to become, "a German of conscience and awareness".

They had two children: Arno David (born 1965) and Lida Myriam (born 1973). After changing employment she worked from 1964 as a secretary at the new German-French Youth Office. There she published Deutsche Mädchen au pair in Paris, a guide for German au pair girls in Paris. During an unpaid leave year, after the birth of her son, she became increasingly engaged in feminist literature and the emancipation of women in Germany. By the end of 1966, she moved with her family, her mother-in-law and the three-member family of Serge's sister into an apartment together.

Action against Kiesinger

While the Klarsfelds were in Paris after the government crisis in October and November 1966, Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU member) was chosen as the new German chancellor of a coalition of the political parties CDU and SPD. In a January 14, 1967 essay for the French newspaper Combat, Klarsfeld, who was then a foreign member of the SPD, came out against the Kiesinger chancellorship in favour of Willy Brandt. In these and other pieces for Combat in March and 27 July of that year she accused Kiesinger of having made a "good reputation" for himself "in the ranks of the Brown Shirts" and "in the CDU". At the end of August she was fired by the French-German Youth Office, at which the Klarsfelds initiated legal action against the decision and redoubled their journalistic campaign against Kiesinger.

To draw attention to Kiesinger's Nazi past, Beate Klarsfeld initiated a campaign with various public actions. Kiesinger registered as a member of the Nazi Party in late February 1933 and by 1940 had risen to deputy head of the political broadcasting department at the Foreign Ministry that was responsible for influencing foreign broadcasts in favor of German politics. Kiesinger was responsible for the connection to the Reich Propaganda Ministry. Klarsfeld accused Kiesinger of being a member of the board of Inter Radio AG, which had been buying foreign radio stations for propaganda purposes.

According to her, he also was principally in charge of the contents of the German international broadcasts which included anti-Semitic and war propaganda, and had collaborated closely with SS functionaries Gerhard Rühle [de] and Franz Alfred Six who were responsible for mass murders in Eastern Europe. After becoming aware of the genocide of the Jews, Kiesinger continued to produce the anti-Semitic propaganda. These allegations were based in part on documents that Albert Norden published about the culprits of war and Nazi crimes.

On 2 April 1968 from the public gallery in the Bonn Bundestag (German parliament), Klarsfeld shouted "Nazi Kiesinger, resign!" at Kiesinger, and was arrested to be released soon after. According to archives, she traveled to East Berlin in the end of April 1968 in order "to discuss the preparation of actions against Kiesinger and obtain appropriate support" there with the National Council, the supreme body of the National Front. On 9 May she was in West Berlin, for a demonstration of the extra-parliamentary opposition about Kiesinger's Nazi past. A press conference was scheduled for 10 May. On 14 May, Klarsfeld wanted to organize a "Kiesinger-Colloquium" in Paris. The West Department of the SED Central Committee immediately informed Walter Ulbricht, its chairman, of Klarsfeld's plans. Subsequently, the National Council was instructed "to provide any relevant assistance to Mrs Klarsfeld". She was eventually supported by the publication of a brochure with a circulation of 30,000 copies. However, the financial help she wished for was not granted.

On 9 May, Klarsfeld, Günter Grass (who had urged Kiesinger in an open letter to resign in 1966), Johannes Agnoli, Ekkehart Krippendorff [de], Jacob Taubes and Michel Lang (a student from the "Jewish Working Group for Politics") led a panel discussion in front of about 2,000 to 3,000 students in the main lecture theatre of the Technical University of Berlin. Grass was initially booed from the audience before starting his speech. Klarsfeld, who presented Kiesinger as a major threat to Germany and the National Democratic Party of Germany promised those present to try to slap him publicly. This was not taken seriously by representatives of the SDS and a part of the audience and was laughed at. Grass' thesis was that a withdrawal by Kiesinger would be a prerequisite for an efficient fight against the NPD, was contradicted by Agnoli and Krippendorff. The conference ended with a 3/4 majority urging Kiesinger to resign.

In mid-1968, as a witness in a lawsuit, Kiesinger claimed he had not heard about the murder of Jews until 1942 and first believed any of it from foreign reports towards the end of 1944. During a CDU party conference in West Berlin on 7 November 1968, Klarsfeld mounted the podium of the Berlin Congress Hall, slapped Kiesinger, and shouted "Nazi, Nazi, Nazi".

A few days later, during an interview with Der Spiegel she maintained that she had already planned the slap on 9 May 1968. She said that she had wanted to express that part of the German people - especially the youth - who were opposed to a Nazi being the head of the Federal Government. Berlin was selected as the site because Klarsfeld and her husband expected she would only be punished mildly as a French citizen because of the four-power status of the city.

The following day on 7 November 1968, Klarsfeld received a 1-year custodial sentence in an accelerated hearing, but due to her part-French nationality she didn't actually have to go to prison. Her defense attorney was Horst Mahler. The judge justified the scale of the penalty - it was the best possible under an accelerated procedure - on the grounds that political beliefs should not be demonstrated with violence, and that the fact the injured was the Chancellor, had not influenced his judgment. Klarsfeld appealed against the verdict.

In recognition of her action, the writer and later Nobel Prize laureate Heinrich Böll sent red roses to her in Paris. Günter Grass, however, deemed Klarsfeld's action "irrational" and criticized Böll's reaction. During a wave of violent actions and attacks by the student movement following the judgment against Klarsfeld, the judge's windows were pelted with stones, which the SDS called "an adequate response to a unparalleled terror judgment".

In late 1969, Klarsfeld's sentence was reduced to four months in prison, which were suspended on probation. Klarsfeld justified the act in a poem that she recorded on November 23, 1968. Accordingly, Klarsfeld when asked, explained that her slap was on behalf of 50 million dead of World War II and that the future generations must understand the "repulsive face of ten million Nazis". In her opinion, Germany needed the slap to prove the guilt of the Nazi followers, to avenge dead Russians and German youth soldiers, to sympathize with concentration camp victims, to clean the occupied countries and daughter crew opponents as Manolis Glezos, the glory of the Scholl siblings, to reconcile with the Jewish, Russian and Polish people, for a joint anti-fascism, for an association "freed from the urge for hegemony" of "three or two" Germany, for "socialism and peace, for the other nations of the respected world" and respect for women among the bombing and torture victims of the Holocaust.

Klarsfeld was accompanied by her mother on 11 November 1968 in Brussels where two days later Kiesinger was to speak on the evening of 13 November 1968 to the Grandes Conférences Catholiques. She was advised to leave the country by the Belgian police. In 1969 she joined the Waldshut constituency federal election campaign as a direct candidate of the Party of Democratic Progress action against the direct candidate of the CDU, Chancellor Kiesinger. Kiesinger received 60,373 votes, Klarsfeld 644.

Other activities

In February 1971 Klarsfeld demonstrated in front of the Charles University in Prague against "Stalinisation, persecution and anti-Semitism". As a result, she was temporarily banned from entering the GDR. That same year in Germany, with her husband and several other people, she tried to kidnap Kurt Lischka, who was responsible for the deportation of some 76,000 Jews from France. Lischka was living openly under his own name in Cologne. Klarsfeld planned to deliver him to justice in Paris, as a previous conviction in France blocked further legal action against Lischka in Germany. Although the kidnapping was unsuccessful, it served to draw media attention to Klarsfeld's cause. She turned herself in to the German authorities, saying that they must arrest either her or Lischka. In 1974 she was sentenced to two months' imprisonment for the attempted kidnapping, with Lischka testifying at her trial. After an international outcry, her sentence was suspended. Lischka remained at large until 1980, when he was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.

In the 1970s, Klarsfeld repeatedly pointed to the involvement of the FDP politician Ernst Achenbach in the deportation of Jews from France. In 1976, she succeeded in her political activity. She ended her activity as a lobbyist of Nazi criminals shortly before her scheduled deployment as West German representative in the European Community in Brussels. In 1984 and 1985 she toured the military dictatorships of Chile and Paraguay, to draw attention to the search for the suspected Nazi war criminals Walter Rauff and Josef Mengele. In 1986 Klarsfeld spent a month in West Beirut, Lebanon, and offered to go into custody in an exchange for Israeli hostages .

Beate Klarsfeld 1986

in 1986, she campaigned against the candidacy of former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, the Austrian Federal President, who was accused of having been involved in war crimes as an officer of the Wehrmacht. She attended his campaign events and after his election she disrupted his appearances in Istanbul and Amman, where she was supported by the World Jewish Congress.

On 4 July 1987, a resolution took heed of Klarsfeld's initiative and condemned SS war criminal Klaus Barbie (known as the Butcher of Lyon). Barbie was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. This success credited Klarsfeld as the "main result" of their actions. As early as 1972 they had uncovered his whereabouts in Bolivia. Her gift was the foundation of the memorial Maison d'Izieu (Children of Izieu), in memory of the victims of Barbie's crimes. In 1991, she fought for the extradition of Eichmann's deputy Alois Brunner, then living in Syria, for the murder of 130,000 Jews in German concentration camps. In 2001, through the efforts of Klarsfeld, Brunner was sentenced by a French court in absentia to life imprisonment.

In July 2001, Klarsfeld called for a demonstration in Berlin against the state visit of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Beate and Serge Klarsfeld published a commemorative book in which the names of over 80,000 victims of the Nazi era in France. They strove successfully to have the pictures displayed of about 11,400 deported Jewish children in the years 1942 to 1944. The French railway SNCF welcomed the project and displayed the pictures at 18 stations as a traveling exhibition (Enfants juifs Déportés de France). The German Railways (DB), the legal successor of Deutsche Reichsbahn, turned down a corresponding exhibition at DB-stations "for security reasons" and referred them to the DB Museum in Nuremberg. The former DB CEO Hartmut Mehdorn argued the issue was much too serious, for display in German railway stations. Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee spoke out in favor of the exhibition. At the end of 2006 Tiefensee and Mehdorn agreed to support a new, DB owned exhibition on the role of the Reichsbahn in World War II.

The special Deutsche Bahn traveling exhibition "Special Trains to Death" has been shown since January 23, 2008 at numerous German train stations. Since its opening, this exhibition has seen over 150,000 visitors. The hunt for Klaus Barbie was made into the movie Die Hetzjagd (The hunt) of 2008. In 2009, she was again nominated by the parliamentary group Die Linke for the Order of Merit. Led by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Office, which is responsible for the awarding of expatriate German nationals, refused the nomination. In the term of office of Joschka Fischer as foreign minister (1998-2005) the award had already been previously rejected.

Since 2008, Klarsfeld has been, together with Michel Cullin of France, a member of the International Council of the Austrian Service Abroad and has supported the memorial service of young Austrians in Holocaust memorials and Jewish museums around the world. On 8 November 2009, she was awarded the Georg-Elser Prize [de] in Munich; but carried her nomination in violation of the regulations.

Until her death Klarsfeld remained friends with Marlene Dietrich, who also lived in Paris and admired the Klarsfelds for their hunt for Klaus Barbie.

Beate Klarsfeld (2012)

Candidacy for Bundespräsidentin

On 27 February 2012 Klarsfeld, after previously Luc Jochimsen and Christoph Butterwegge had been mentioned as possible candidates, was nominated by the board of the Die Linke unanimously for the election of the German President in 2012 as a candidate.

Klarsfeld stated that she felt supported by the Left hundred percent in the fight against fascism. The fact that the party had nominated them with knowledge of their commitment to Israel, show that the party was in agreement on this relationship with her. She put a program established for their administration in case of their choice, intention, however, to improve the image of Germany. It had a moral Germany to be created that can bring about social justice in other European countries. Klarsfeld had announced, to assist in the 2012 French presidential election Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. You have no "abdominal pain that I just left for a candidate" although it would have preferred a nomination on the part of the CDU or the SPD. The election for President of the Confederation would be the "highest honor" that she could be granted.

At the end of February 2012, the Saxon State Commissioner for the Stasi files, Lutz Rathenow, made in the Tagesspiegel Klarsfeld contacts with the Ministry of State Security of the GDR on the subject. Klarsfeld had indeed supplied no reports and had also not been a player, but I always get material from the GDR secret. They have also wanted. According to Rathenow, it "already a reflection of how far served the Stasi legwork of Nazi Crimes elucidation and where it has harmed." would require. He asked: "Had such a secret trust has been applied also to the American CIA or the Federal Intelligence Service? Where it led politically by those who also blackmail made by permanent adoption of material? "

In 1991, former Stasi officers Günter Bohnsack and Herbert Brehmer made public in an article for Der Spiegel that "Mrs Klarsfeld" the "incriminating evidence against the former Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger," "with which they then since 1967 Kiesinger's past denounced "have picked up at them. Her husband Serge was repeatedly at them. The two would get "piles of documents" of them. According to Bohnsack this cooperation began in 1966 and ended only in 1989. The "Plan with the slap" have Klarsfeld "probably concocted itself"; he knew nothing about it before it is executed.

Klarsfeld confirmed that it was not an informer, the GDR but suggested that she open the "Archive to Nazi criminals in Potsdam". After Klarsfeld actions against antisemitism early 70s in Prague and Warsaw, the GDR had these doors but closed again. The Stasi background of their interlocutors in East Germany, she was not aware at the time: "I met with people, which I thought they were historians with access to State archives of the GDR."

On March 5, 2012 Klarsfeld was elected by the Saxon parliament on the list of the Left Group as one of 33 people election as member of the 15th Federal Assembly in 2012.

On 7 March 2012, Welt published online under the article title "2000 D-Mark for the famous German slap" an internal instruction of the SED Politburo member Albert Norden announced the 14 November 1968, a week after the slap against Kiesinger, Klarsfeld should be provided 2000 DM "for further initiatives". Officially, the amount should be reported as honoraria an article she had written DDR Revue for foreign journal.

Referring to this publication said CDU General Secretary Hermann Gröhe Klarsfeld from any fitness for the office of president. The head of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, Hubertus Knabe, said something similar and attested her a missing "democratic awareness". Asked about the allegations, Klarsfeld said it was outrageous to reduce their commitment for Kiesinger's Nazi past to support by the GDR. she never worked on behalf of the GDR, but on their own behalf. In 1968 she had a few days spent by the slap 2,000 marks for it to organize the event with Kiesinger in Brussels. As early as 1972 she had described it in her autobiography.

Klarsfeld described in her 1972 autobiography that she had received 2000 D-Mark for an article in the East Berlin magazine Horizont. With the money they have paid the airfare from supporters of their action on 13 November 1968 in Brussels, who arrived with brochures about Kiesinger from Berlin.

Klarsfeld answer was interpreted by World Online as an indirect and first-time admission that she had once actually received the $2000. FDP General Secretary Patrick Döring said: "If it turns out that Ms. Klarsfeld 1968 nothing but an accomplice for a paid of the SED PR campaign was her candidacy for the highest German state office is a slap for all democrats in our country". The general secretary of the CSU, Alexander Dobrindt, Klarsfeld called an "SED puppet".

The national director of Die Linke, Caren Lay, described it as against it "absurd charge", "to discredit commissioned by the GDR" Klarsfeld commitment as. The deputy chairman of the parliamentary faction Dietmar Bartsch said Klarsfeld sought to put the slap Kiesingers a sign, but achieved a great deal more. He opposed equating DDR and Nazism, calling it legitimate that Klarsfeld was supported in its "fight against Nazis" from France, Israel, and also of East Germany.

In the world which Klarsfeld had three years earlier honored on her birthday, now published opinion comments, after which there was "little to do with the Klarsfeld" that Klaus Barbie was tried, and the slap was doubtful also because Kiesinger had been a "follower of the Nazi regime".

When choosing 18 March 2012 voted 126 members of the Federal Assembly for Klarsfeld. These are placed three more than the Left Party delegates. Klarsfeld was against Joachim Gauck, whose candidacy of CDU / CSU, SPD, FDP and Greens had been supported and the 991 votes received.


  • 1974: Beate Klarsfeld received the Israeli "Bravery medal of the Ghetto fighters".
  • 1984: French President François Mitterrand named her a Knight of the Legion of Honour.
  • 2007: French President Nicolas Sarkozy named her an Officer of the Legion of Honour.
  • 2009: She received the Georg-Elser Prize [de]
  • 2011: President Sarkozy awarded her the National Order of Merit.
  • 2015: She and her husband Serge received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, first class.
  • 2016: Beate received honorary Israeli citizenship.
  • 2018: National Jewish Book Award in the Book of the Year category for Hunting the Truth: Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld


  • Deutsche Mädchen au pair in Paris, Voggenreiter, Bad Godesberg 1965.
  • Die Wahrheit über Kiesinger (PDF; 275 kB), Artikel in der Zeitschrift elan, Juli/August 1968.
  • Die Geschichte des PG 2 633 930 Kiesinger: Dokumentation mit einem Vorwort von Heinrich Böll. Melzer, Darmstadt 1969.
  • K oder der subtile faschismus: mit Joseph Billig und Vorwort von Heinrich Böll. Extra-Dienst-GmbH, in Verbindung mit dem Jüdischen Aktionskreis (JAK), Berlin, 1969. Signatur der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Frankfurt am Main: D 69/23806 und Leipzig: SA 22217 - 2.
  • Wherever they may be! Vanguard Press, New York 1972, ISBN 0-8149-0748-2.
    • französische Originalausgabe: Partout où ils seront, 1972.
  • mit Serge Klarsfeld: Die Kinder von Izieu. Eine jüdische Tragödie. Ed. Hentrich, Berlin 1991 (Reihe deutsche Vergangenheit, Nr. 51) ISBN 3-89468-001-6 (auch auf Französisch und Englisch).
  • mit Serge Klarsfeld: Endstation Auschwitz : die Deportation deutscher und österreichischer jüdischer Kinder aus Frankreich ; ein Erinnerungsbuch. Böhlau, Köln 2008, ISBN 978-3-412-20156-2.
  • mit Serge Klarsfeld: Erinnerungen. Piper, München/ Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-492-05707-3
    • als Hrsg: Liebesbriefe aus dem Wartesaal zum Tod; Briefe von Charlotte Minna Rosenthal, geschrieben von Januar bis August 1942 aus den Internierungslagern Gurs und Brens in Frankreich an ihren Geliebten Rudolph Lewandowski, Stiftung Demokratie Saarland, Saarbrücken, 2013. Signatur der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Frankfurt am Main: 2013 A 81226 und Leipzig: 2013 A 99942.


  • Verfolgt und gejagt (Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story) – TV-Film, USA, Frankreich, 1986, ca. 100 Min., Regie: Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Produktion: Films Ariane, SFP, TF 1, Brent Walker TV, Silver Chalice, Orion-TV, mit Farrah Fawcett als Beate Klarsfeld und Tom Conti als Serge Klarsfeld.
  • Die Hetzjagd (La Traque.) – Spielfilm, Frankreich, Deutschland, 2008, 108 Min., Regie: Laurent Jaoui, Produktion: WDR, ARTE, AT-Production, Elzévir Films, RTL-TVI, TERZ Film, Inhaltsangabe von arte, mit Hanns Zischler als Klaus Barbie, Franka Potente als Beate Klarsfeld, Yvan Attal als Serge Klarsfeld; Peter Finkelgruen im Interview zum Film
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 08 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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