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Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie


Roger Davidson

Of many documentaries, there are two particular ones at the top of my all-time greatest list. Woodstock and Hotel Terminus. Marcel Ophuls (The Sorrow and the Pity) introduces us to the people who knew, hated and feared Klaus Barbie, the butcher of Lyons. Barbie, a master torturer in Nazi Germany, was part of special U.S. intelligence forces after the war and kept up his torturer's trade all the way to Bolivia. The film deals with his crimes during WWII, his time in hiding and finally, his expulsion from Bolivia and his return to France for trial.

Without even having to show gruesome war footage, we can practically feel the pain and horror pour out of the souls on film. Many concentration camp survivors and ex-Nazi soldiers reveal much about the man they consider a hideous human monster. Ophuls has to deal with the repetitive folk, who talk about leaving the past behind, because it happened "over 40 years ago". Perhaps, but their are many people out there who do not forgive and forget so easily.

This particular chapter in history is close to my heart in a way. My grandmother, an Austrian Jew, left her country during the Aunchlauss and moved to France. When it was invaded, she joined the French Resistance. French Resistance workers were a particular group, whose members Barbie, when he had them in his grasp, loved to torture . I am glad that my Grandmother never came upon this man, but I have heard the stories of others, including the ones in this film. I do not wish him dead, for it does no good, but I have wished justice done and was glad to know that it was done with Barbie.

Despite the oppressive length (four hours and a half), this movie is never boring! Ophuls brings heartache, happiness, rapture, hatred and joy to a documentary that is thought to have only one such emotion: Horror! Ophuls has done more with his films on WWII, then any other filmaker could ever dream of doing. He captures the horror, agony and triumph of the will under chaos, by simply sitting down and talking with the people who lived such moments.

My Rating = Four Stars

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