On this day in 1979, a car bomb destroyed a Renault motorcar owned by famed “Nazi hunters” Serge and Beate Klarsfeld at their home in France. A note purportedly from ODESSA, an organisation believed to have been an international Nazi network established by SS officers, claimed responsibility.
Serge Klarsfeld, a Romanian Jew whose father was killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp, and Beate Klarsfeld (nee Kunzel), German-born Christian and daughter of a Wehrmacht soldier, grew interested in activism soon after their marriage in 1963 and quickly gained renown as anti-Nazi, pro-Israel activists.
As a team, the Klarsfelds worked tirelessly to document Holocaust events as well as find former Nazi officers for prosecution for war crimes. They pursued such figures as “Butcher of Leon” Gestapo member Klaus Barbie, Vichy French civil servants Rene Bousquet and Jean Leguay, Gaullist politician Maurice Papon, and French Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier, to seek prosecution against them for war crimes. The Klarsfelds also tried to abduct Kurt Lischka, a former Gestapo chief from Cologne, West Germany, and hand him over to French authorities for prosecution. Though they were convicted of felony charges and sentenced to two months in prison for the attempted abduction, the sentence was suspended due to international protest. Lischka was later convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison.
The Klarsfelds’ activism often endangered them, and on 9 July 1979 they were the target of a car bombing. Their Renault motorcar was parked at their home in France when a bomb detonated, destroying the car. No one was inside the Renault when the bomb detonated, and no one was injured in the blast. The organisation of former Nazi SS members, ODESSA, claimed responsibility for the attack and demanded the Klarsfelds stop pursing former Nazis. Many believe it is unlikely that ODESSA was behind the attack, however.
Undeterred, the Klarsfelds continued their activism, and were awarded France’s Legion of Honour by President Francois Mitterand in 1984. In 1986 their story was adapted for a TV movie, Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story, starring Farrah Fawcett. And in 2012 Beate was nominated as a candidate for President of Germany by Die Linke, or The Left. (She lost to Joachim Gauck.)
Credit: © Daily Mail/Rex / Alamy
Caption: Beate and Serge Klarsfeld in 1984.