The Rat Line

Christopher Driver

By chance, the evening I took this book to bed for the painful reading expected, I jabbed the tooth of a comb down a fingernail and cried out. As a reminder of what Klaus Barbie was about, not just at the Hotel Terminus in Lyon forty years ago but at the Bolivian Joint Chiefs of Staff headquarters in La Paz as late as 1980, the moment served. An inkling of the more enduring wounds for which Barbie was proud to share responsibility can be gathered from Claudine Vegh’s I didn’t say goodbye, a labour of love rather than literature in which the surviving children of French Jewish deportees talk to a psychiatrist who shared their experience: ‘I didn’t have a youth, I no longer have a mother, I have a sister who needs treatment, a father who hasn’t been able to lead a normal life since he came back. An entire existence ruined.’

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