Hotel Terminus: Ophuls’ Landmark Docu

Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie is a 1988 documentary film directed by Marcel Ophüls about the life of Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie.

The film covers Barbie’s relatively innocent childhood, his time with the Gestapo in Lyon, through to the forty years between the end of World War II and his eventual deportation from Bolivia to stand trial for crimes against humanity. The film explores a number of themes, including the nature of evil and the diffusion of responsibilit in hierarchical situations.

The film features interviews from both supporters and opponents of Barbie’s trial, from journalists to former U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps agents to investigators of Nazi war crimes to Barbie’s defense attorney. Much of the testimony presented is contradictory: for example, some interviewees allege that Barbie was brought to trial as a figurehead while others allege that he was allowed to go free for forty years as a result of the protection of various governments (including those of the United States and Bolivia), because Barbie knew secret agents and a public trial could potentially jeopardize various intelligence operations.

During the course of the film, Barbie is brought to trial and sentenced to life in prison; near the end of the film, his defense attorney vows to appeal the decision.

The film won the 1988 Academy Award for Documentary Feature as well as the FIPRESCI Award at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival.