1935 Serge Klarsfeld is born in Bucharest, Romania, during a visit by his mother, Raissa, to her family and birthplace in Bessarabia. Raissa and her husband, Arno Klarsfeld, have lived in France since 1928, when they left Romania to complete their university studies in Paris.
1939 Beate-Auguste Kunzel is born in Berlin to Helene Scholz Kunzel and Kurt Kunzel. Shortly after becoming a father, Kurt Kunzel is called up for service in the German army.
At the outbreak of war with Nazi Germany in September, Arno Klarsfeld enlists in the French Foreign Legion.
1940-41 Arno Klarsfeld's Foreign Legion regiment suffers heavy losses in fighting on the Somme front during the French defeat in June 1940. The Germans capture him but he escapes to the "Free" Vichy Zone in southern France and settles with his family in Nice.
Kurt Kunzel's Wehrmacht infantry regiment is sent to France in the summer of 1940. After a year's service there, the regiment is transferred to the East. Kunzel, however, is stricken with double pneumonia and is invalided back to Germany for the rest of the war.
1943 The Klarsfeld family is relatively safe in Nice, where the Italian occupation zone protects Jews from arrest and deportation to the East. However, in September 1943, Mussolini is overthrown and Italy's alliance with Germany is ended. When Italian troops withdraw from Nice, SS teams commanded by Alois Brunner enter the city to hunt down Jews. Serge's father is arrested by the SS as his wife and children listen, hidden in the back of a closet in their apartment. Arno Klarsfeld is deported to Auschwitz and gassed.
1944-45 The Kunzel family flees the Allied bombings of Berlin, eventually taking refuge in the village of Sandau, in northeastern Germany. The Kunzels return to Berlin at the war's end.
1945 After fleeing Nice with her young children, Serge's mother makes her way to the Haute Loire, near the village of Le Chambon, and the three survive the war. Serge and his mother and sister return to Paris when France is liberated.
1960 Beate leaves Berlin and travels to Paris, finding work as an au pair with French families. On a Metro platform one afternoon she meets Serge, now a student at the University of Paris's Institute of Political Studies.
1963 Serge and Beate marry in Paris. He begins work with the French National Radio and Television Organization (ORTF) and she with the Franco-German Alliance for Youth, a friendship organization newly set up by President Charles De Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.
Arno Klarsfeld's grandson, Arno-David Klarsfeld, is born to Serge and Beate in Paris.
1966 Beate, in an article written for the Parisian daily Combat, protests that the new Chancellor of West Germany, Kurt-George Kiesinger, was a leading Nazi and is unfit for his post. She charges that Kiesinger was a party member from 1933 to 1945, rising to the post of director of Nazi propaganda broadcasting, a career known but ignored by West Germany's politicians and press. For her efforts, Beate is fired by the Franco-German Alliance for Youth. (Later, she discovers that several former Nazis serve on the Alliance's board and in its administration.)
1967 On the outbreak of the Six-Day War, Serge, who has completed military service in France, flies to Israel to volunteer. Denied an active duty assignment, he uses old ORTF press documents to accompany Israeli troops on the Syrian front.
1968 Beate declares war on Kiesinger. She launches a public campaign against him in West Germany, addressing student groups and political demonstrations across the country. She heckles him, shouting "Nazi!" "Resign!" as he addresses the Bonn Parliament. She is seized by security guards but released.
1970 After a campaign in Western Europe documenting the role of Ernst Achenbach in the wartime persecution of Jews in France, Beate wins withdrawal of his nomination as West Germany's Representative on the Brussels Commission, at the helm of the European Economic Community. During the war, Achenbach, chief of the political section of the German embassy in Paris, was intimately involved with setting up the deportations of Jews to death camps in the East; after the war he became a leading corporate lawyer and a prominent defense attorney for accused former Nazi officials.
- Counterattacking against the Polish Communist government's anti-Semitic campaign against "Zionist Jews," Beate travels to Warsaw to mount a public protest. Chaining herself to a tree at a major Warsaw intersection, she distributes leaflets to lunchtime crowds condemning the government's campaign to drive out the few remaining Polish Jews. The chain is cut and she is arrested and expelled.
Eastern Europe's Communist regimes continue their anti-Semitic campaigns, and in Czechoslovakia the Party has charged Jews were prominent in staging incidents that provoked Soviet military intervention against the "Prague Spring" of 1968. A show trial is organized, with 26 young persons accused of "Trotskyist" efforts to overthrow Communism in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere. Half are Jews accused of acting with Zionist support. Beate goes to Prague and is arrested and expelled for distributing leaflets against Stalinism and anti-Semitism.
- Turning to unfinished business with Nazi murderers who remained unpunished, Serge and Beate attempt to kidnap Kurt Lischka, wartime Gestapo chief for Jewish affairs in France and an architect of the deportations. Lischka lives in Cologne, where he was Gestapo chief just before the war, and the Klarsfelds intend to return him to France, where he was condemned in absentia after the war. Lischka evades capture when passersby and police intervene, but Serge and Beate get away.
- The Klarsfelds extend their campaign for trials of Nazi officials to Herbert Hagen, wartime superior of Lischka and an associate of Adolf Eichmann, who also lives in the Cologne area. Beate returns to Cologne to deliver documentation on Lischka and Hagen to an examining magistrate and her reward is arrest by him for her role in the attempted Lischka kidnapping. Three weeks later, after protests in Paris, among them a brief occupation of the West German embassy, she is freed on bail. - After a long campaign by the Klarsfelds the West German government signs a Franco-German agreement permitting German courts to try accused Nazi officials for crimes committed in France.
1971 - The Klarsfelds intensify efforts to track and unmask unpunished Nazis, among them Klaus Barbie, chief of the Gestapo in wartime Lyons. Archives of the Jewish Documentation Center in Paris document Barbie's leading role in the roundups and murders of Lyons Jews, among them many children, and of resistance members, including Jean Moulin, General De Gaulle's emissary to the resistance. Barbie is believed to have personally tortured and killed Moulin.
1972 A campaign is launched in France and West Germany to reopen the case of Barbie, twice condemned in absentia by French courts but never caught. Acting on secret information that Barbie is living in Bolivia but has taken temporary refuge in Peru, Beate travels to South America twice, visiting Lima and La Paz to publicize demands for his extradition. Barbie is jailed briefly on his return to Bolivia, but despite an extradition request from French President Georges Pompidou, he is protected by the Bolivian dictator, Colonel Hugo Banzer, and extradition is refused. - In Paris, a package delivered to the Klarsfeld home seems suspicious and they bring it to local police. An X-ray examination reveals the detonator, explosive and nails of a large homemade bomb. - The Klarsfelds campaign against the decision of President Pompidou to pardon Paul Touvier, former head of the Vichy government Militia in occupied Lyons. Touvier has been in hiding since the war. 1973 Serge goes to South America to try to organize the kidnapping of Barbie and bring him back to France for trial. Planning the operation, he flies to a remote site in the Andes with activist Regis Debray and other conspirators; the group counts on the help of Bolivian officers opposed to the dictatorial Banzer regime. The overthrow of the leftist Allende government in Chile puts an end to the kidnapping plan. -
1973- Lida-Myriam, the Klarsfelds' second child, is born in Paris - After Kurt Lischka pulls out a pistol and threatens Beate and a group of protesters who invade his Cologne office to demand his trial, Serge travels to Cologne and confronts Lischka in the street with an unloaded revolver. He tells the terrified Lischka that he could have fired but is saving him to face justice in a courtroom. Serge escapes back to France and writes the Cologne prosecutor to demand completion of the accord permitting trials in Germany of former Nazi officials
1973 The prosecutor's response is to issue a warrant for the arrest of both Klarsfelds. - Returning to La Paz with Itta Halaunbrenner, whose husband, son and two daughters were killed on Barbie's orders, Beate renews efforts to force Barbie's extradition for trial in France. The two women chain themselves to a bench near Barbie's office in central La Paz with protest placards and succeed in generating press attention despite police harassment before they return to Paris
1974 Beate flies to Damascus in January to protest Syria's mistreatment of Israeli prisoners taken in the Yom Kippur War, its refusal to publish a list of the prisoners and the government's persecution of the Syrian Jewish community. The protest is delivered to President Assad's office and the foreign ministry, and despite official harassment the Western press carries her statement: - Wherever Jews are persecuted,
it is our duty as Germans to intervene on their behalf. Here, in addition to the cruel treatment that the Syrian Jewish community has increasingly suffered in recent years, is added the horrible uncertainty about the lives of Israeli prisoners of war. Already dozens of their comrades have been abominably executed after their capture on the Golan Heights. . . . Let not the crimes of Hitler's Germany be used as a model by the Arab people. - A planned action goes awry when Beate is arrested on Yom Hashoah-Holocaust Remembrance Day-inside the compound of the Dachau concentration camp, near Munich. The demonstration was intended to press for final adoption of the law to permit West German courts to try accused Nazi war criminals. Her arrest brings protests in France and Israel and in the West German capital, Bonn, where reporters dissuade baton-wielding police from charging a protest delegation of French resistance veterans. After three weeks in jail, she is freed in the custody of Arie Marinsky, a prominent lawyer the Israeli government has sent to defend her. Later, Beate is tried in Cologne for the assaults on Lischka. She is convicted and sentenced to two months in prison, but the sentence is waived for time served and pending an appeal. - Following her trial, Ernst Achenbach, the former Nazi official who chairs the Bundestag committee responsible for reviewing the draft law permitting trials of Nazis, is forced to resign this post by his Liberal Party colleagues. Achenbach, also the leader of the lobby agitating for an amnesty on Nazi crimes, had threatened to block a vote on the legislation. - Undeterred, Beate is arrested at the summit meeting of the Arab States in Rabat while handing out pro-Israeli literature in the street in front of the building housing the Moroccan Ministry of Information. She is interrogated by several police teams and then expelled.
1975 Beate returns to the Middle East to campaign in defense of the Jewish communities in Syria and Iraq. In Cairo, she discloses that Hans Schirmer, head of the Euro-Arab cooperation program set up by West European and Arab parliamentarians, had served as second in command of Hitler's international radio propaganda service. She is arrested when she visits Beirut and is expelled from Lebanon. The West German Parliament ratifies the Franco-German judicial agreement permitting German courts to try former Nazi officials for war crimes committed in France. In recognition of their four-year struggle to win ratification of the agreement, the new law is widely known as Lex Klarsfeld. A series of demonstrations, both legal and illegal, are staged in West Germany by the Klarsfelds and their French Jewish supporters to force application of the new law to Lischka, Hagen and Heinrichsohn.
1976The Klarsfelds campaign in Cologne for indictments of Lischka and his accomplices and in Schleswig for the trial of SS leaders who deported 25,000 Jews from Belgium: Ernst Ehlers, wartime head of the Nazi police in Belgium, and Kurt Asche, head of the anti-Jewish department of the Gestapo in Brussels. When tracked down by the Klarsfelds, Ehlers was serving as a judge in the Administrative Court of the West German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The Klarsfelds demonstrate in West Germany against the neo-Nazi party known as the Deutsche-Volks-Union. Serge becomes the first Jew to be publicly beaten in Germany since the war, when he leaps on the stage at a neo-Nazi rally in the Burgerbraukeller hall in Munich and demands that the rally allow a Jew to speak. The incident provokes public shame of dramatic proportions in West Germany, and the Munich meetings cease.
Serge is arrested in Frankfurt on charges stemming from his campaign to bring Kurt Lischka to trial. In a reprise of Beate's 1971 arrest by a Cologne judge when she arrived in court to deliver documentation for the case against Lischka and Hagen, Serge is arrested when he enters the Frankfurt Criminal Court with files containing evidence against Ernst Heinrichsohn and two other former Nazi officials, Hans-Dietrich Ernst, Sipo-SD commander in Angers, and Fritz Merdsche, Sipo-SD commander in Orleans.
1978 All three had been condemned to death in absentia by French courts after the war. Serge's trial takes place in Cologne and results in a sentence of two months in prison, immediately suspended.
- Beate returns to South America to generate protests in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. She protests the growth of anti-Semitism & the arrests of Jews by authoritarian military regimes in Argentina and Uruguay and their use of torture & violations of human rights.
- Beate is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by 57 members of the Israeli Knesset, among them Menachem Begin, Abba Eban and Yitzhak Navon.
Serge's pathbreaking Mémorial de la Déportation des Juifs de France-Memorial to the Jews Deported from France-is published. The culmination of years of archival research, the Memorial lists by name each of the known victims of the Final Solution in France. Based on the original typewritten lists prepared for each deportation train, the Memorial establishes that more than 75,700 Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps from France and that just 2,564 of the deportees were found alive in 1945. Listing the victims convoy by convoy, the book gives the names, place and date of birth, and nationality of each deportee. The publication of the Memorial has a tremendous impact on the French Jewish community.
- The Klarsfelds launch a concerted effort to break the immunity enjoyed for more than 30 years by former Vichy officials who worked with the Nazis to organize the deportations of Jews from France. Their focus is on René Bousquet, Vichy's chief of the National Police, and on Jean Leguay, his deputy in the Occupied Zone responsible for relations with the Germans. (Bousquet negotiated the 1942 agreement with the Nazis under which French police arrested Jews and held them for deportation. He initiated the arrangements for the capture and deportation of Jewish children. After the war he was sentenced to five years of "national indignity," immediately suspended, and became a director of the Indo-Suez Bank and many major French enterprises in Indochina. Leguay, involved in the 1942 negotiations, was suspended from government service after the liberation but was permitted to leave for the United States, where he became a leading executive of Nina Ricci and Warner Lambert Pharmaceuticals.)
- Serge and Beate lead the children of Jewish deportees in demonstrations in Dusseldorf, Cologne and other West German cities to demand trials of the SS officials who deported Jews from France and Belgium.
1979 The organization known as Les Fils et Filles des Deportés Juifs de France (FFDJF)-The Sons and Daughters of the Jewish Deportees of France, the "militants of memory"-is founded in Paris by Serge. The FFDJF lists these aims: "to put an end to the immunity of the major German and French organizers of the deportations of Jews from France; to publish works that precisely describe the fate of Jews in France from 1940 to 1944; to defend the memory of the Jewish victims; to struggle against anti-Semitism and to support the existence and the security of the State of Israel, the refuge of the survivors and the persecuted and the guardian of the security of Jews everywhere." With the help of American supporters the Beate Klarsfeld Foundation is created in New York. Working in parallel, the two groups will support the Klarsfelds' actions in defense of Jews wherever they are threatened and will research and publish verified documents on the Holocaust. -
This becomes a year of Memorials. In March, the Klarsfelds organize the first one-day pilgrimage to Auschwitz by French Jews; two planeloads of FFDJF members-the Sons and Daughters and other members of deportees' families-make the sad journey to Poland.
- In June, the Sons and Daughters and the Klarsfelds dedicate a monument to Jews deported from France in Roglit, Israel. The monument is one hundred ten yards long and 13 yards high and dominates the valley where David killed Goliath. It bears the names and the birth places and dates of the 80,000 victims from France. Around the monument, 80,000 trees are planted as a Forest of Remembrance.
- When documents are found supporting accusations against Maurice Papon, minister of the budget in the French cabinet, Serge immediately renews his charges that Papon bears a major responsibility for the arrests, deportations and murders of more than 1,600 Bordeaux Jews, many of them children.