“At the Barbie trial, the women agreed to define the crime against humanity”

Alain Jakubowicz, 35 years after the Barbie trial, you publish, with Progress , “You thought beautiful for eternity”, a book devoted to the testimonies of women of victims and women victims of the head of the Lyon Gestapo. Why ?

“I was extremely impressed by the testimonies of these women, which I consider to have been decisive. They gave substance to the crime against humanity. There are resistance fighters as well as racial deportees, illustrious women as well as unknown ones. This universalism recalls the specificity of the role of women in these terrible periods of history, which are wars. »

In what way was their testimony central?

“The specificity of their testimony made it possible to define a crime against humanity, which until then had been a vague concept. Our Judeo-Christian heritage, especially in the very patriarchal society of the time, wanted men to take up arms and women to be physically spared. Or there we saw how wrong it was. They were doubly tortured by Barbie. In their chairs, because nothing has been spared them, but also morally, as women who have seen their sons and their husbands tortured in front of them. Then, on this “crime of inhumanity”, as André Frossard said, committed in the camps, they spoke about it like women. Modesty, intimacy or nudity take on another dimension for a woman. Their testimonies were acquired to the physical definition of the crime against humanity. »

How did they face Barbie?

“The peculiarity of this trial is that Barbie has deserted it. The civil parties were initially appalled and disconcerted, wondering how the trial was going to be able to take place without him. But this strategy imagined by his lawyer, Jacques Vergès, turned against him. In his absence, we were almost in introspection, with murmurs, silences. The women were focused not on the box, but on their testimony, delivered for their comrades, who did not return. Conversely, when he was present, women challenged him, wanted to meet his gaze. They became fighters. The audience was gaining in sensationalism, but losing in depth. »

Is there a risk of dilution of this memory today, when Marine Le Pen arrived, on April 20, in the lead, in Izieu (Ain), a town where 44 Jewish children had been victims of a roundup in 1944? ?

“It’s not new, it’s the reality of our country. But all the people who vote for her have not, for all that, forgotten this story and are not necessarily anti-Semitic or racist. It is linked to the transformation of Marine Le Pen, who has also been “refocused” politically by the extremist discourse of Eric Zemmour. It worked in Izieu, as elsewhere. On the other hand, Eric Zemmour did not score at Izieu. I may be candid, but I think that on these issues of the 2nde World War, Nazism and crimes against humanity, there is a before and after Barbie trial. We see it in Holocaust denial”.

Hard to tell these women that the camps did not exist, indeed…

“Yes. The presence of Robert Faurisson, on the quai Romain Rolland, at the opening of the trial, was completely marginalized by the arrival of these women. And today, no serious person would defend these theses, which are now reserved for a few extremist ideologues. It is impossible to tell these women that it did not exist. These women, who have seen children enter the gas chambers and describe the black smoke, like the smell coming from the crematorium ovens. Beyond the work of justice, the trial had this merit. »

Meeting-debate at 6:30 p.m. in the salons of Lyon City Hall, Place de la Comédie. In the presence of Sylvie Altar, historian, and the authors, Stéphane Nivet, historian, Alain Jakubowicz, lawyer. Under the honorary presidency of Grégory Doucet, mayor, of Florence Delaunay, assistant delegate for memory, and of Pierre Fanneau, director general of the Progress.

To buy the book, visit the Le Progrès store.

Florence Delaunay: “Women are actors in history”

For the Lyon deputy in charge of rights, equality and memory, the action of women during the Resistance must be valued more than ever.

Why is it important to commemorate the 35e anniversary of the Barbie trial?

“This trial was a founding moment in the collective memory of post-war Lyon. Barbie was the emblematic character of the repression in Lyon. He was imprisoned in Lyon, he died in prison in Lyon, after being tried and sentenced there. This event is therefore, in my eyes, as important as the commemoration of the Vel d’Hiv roundup for Paris. »

What did you learn from this trial?

“The events mentioned by the witnesses were much more recent than was mentioned at the time. I believe that, like for many people, it has enabled both collective and individual awareness. »

Today, in particular with the book “You thought you were beautiful for eternity”, we are also rediscovering how important the place of women in this trial was…

“As this trial took place more than 40 years after the events, many of the witnesses were women. Victims, but also women who had been wives, daughters, mothers, who had come to bring a feminine voice and who gave this trial a particular specificity. Faced with an accused who defended the logic of a combatant, they revealed the cruelty and barbarism of his action.

This trial also highlighted the role of women in the Resistance, active, but also civilian. Their involvement has, in fact, been very important in the rescue of resistance fighters, Jews and children. Among the most emblematic rescues, there is, of course, the colony of Izieu, with its director, Sabine Zlatin. And this book is all the more important as it is the first time that we have a biographical notice of all these women. »

How to make the action of all these women more visible?

“By working in particular on the naming of streets. In France, only 6% of the streets bear the names of women. In Lyon it is a little better, 13%. We want to rebalance this situation in a very significant way, during the mandate, because it legitimizes the place of women in the city and in public spaces. But it also shows the importance of their role in history and that it is not just a matter of men. We are also preparing to name a street after Denise Domenach-Laliche, a resistance fighter who died in 2020.

How can all these women be examples for women and girls today?

“Highlighting the action of women in the past shows that women have always produced history. They have always been the actresses, but this memory has not been highlighted for various reasons. Women today are actors for the social, political, cultural, economic and ecological of this city. »

Proposed by Manuel DA FONSECA