LYON, France -- Klaus Barbie helped direct a roundup of 44 Jewish children who were tossed onto trucks 'like sacks of potatoes' but sang defiantly as they were driven away to Nazi death camps, a farmer testified Wednesday.
Farm laborer Julien Favet, 68, said he was working in the fields in the village of Izieu on April 6, 1944, when two trucks pulled up at a farmhouse being used to shelter Jewish children orphaned or left refugees because of the war.
Favet said he thought the trucks were to deliver firewood, but when he got closer he saw three men in civilian clothes directing a dozen German soldiers in rounding up whomever was in the house.
Favet said one of the men in civilian dress was Barbie, the so-called 'Butcher of Lyon.'
The roundup at Izieu, a hillside village 50 miles east of Lyon, is considered the most incriminating instance of Barbie's alleged anti-Jewish activities as the Gestapo chief in Lyon from 1942 to 1944.
Of those deported to death camps that day -- 44 children between the ages of 3 and 17 and seven adults -- only one survived, the adult Lea Feldblum, who also testified Wednesday.
'I saw him (Barbie) making children climb up on the trucks,' said Favet, who said a German soldier prevented him from intervening. 'They were throwing the children onto the trucks like they were sacks of potatoes.'
Favet said some of the children were singing the French national anthem and the 1870 anti-German song 'You'll Never Take Alsace and Lorraine.'
'When you see men make martyrs of children, it's unthinkable. It was not a happy sight.'
Favet was the only witness to attest to Barbie's presence. He said he identified him from photographs and later during a face-to-face confrontation with him at St. Joseph Prison, where Barbie has been held since he was deported to France from Bolivia in 1983.
Leon Reifman, 73, said he was a medical student and working at the home at the time.
'The dining hall bell rang to call the children to breakfast. I saw in the hallway three men in street clothes. I jumped out a window and hid in the garden until nightfall. I heard the cries of the children as they were thrown like living packages into the trucks,' he said.
Reifman, whose father, mother and sister disappeared after their deportation to Nazi concentration camps, said he hoped the trial would serve as a 'lesson of history, and that through this man we condemn Nazi ideology.'
Rene Wucher said he was arrested at Izieu, but then allowed off one of the trucks when a relative told the Germans he was not a Jew.
Sabrina Zlatin, 80, director of the home, was away at the time of the roundup, but her husband was caught that day, deported and later executed by a firing squad.
Zlatin told the court she sought help for the prisoners in Vichy, seat of the collaborationist French wartime government. But a senior official refused, telling her: 'Why are you wasting time on these dirty Jews?'
She continued: 'Barbie always said he concerned himself only with Resistance fighters and the enemies of the German army. I ask you, the 44 children, were they resistants? Who were they? They were innocent,' she shouted.
'Children are children whether they are white, black or Jewish,' Zlatin said.
In response to a question by a lawyer, Zlatin said she believed 70 percent of the French backed the Vichy government's collaborationist policy.
Charles Liebman, one of 43 lawyers representing 129 individuals or organizations that have joined the case against Barbie, told the court that even if Barbie's presence at Izieu is disputed, experts have already testified to the authenticity of a telex message with his name at the bottom reporting to the Paris Gestapo that the Izieu deportations had taken place.
Barbie Wednesday refused again to appear at his trial, which began May 11. He began a boycott May 13, claiming his extradition to France was illegal. He was forced into court for identification purposes on Tuesday.
Presiding judge Andre Cerdini adjourned court until Monday, because of holidays.