TORONTO — In 1987, Simone Lagrange sat in a French courtroom and testified how, when she was 13 years old, Klaus Barbie hit her violently in the face as he played with a cat at the Gestapo headquarters in Lyon.
Lagrange was one of the key witnesses in the trial of the “butcher of Lyon” that saw him sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity.
Lagrange now tells us the story of her Holocaust experiences in the documentary As A Young Girl of 13, which is being shown at the Projection Booth at 1035 Gerrard St. E. Toronto.
In the film, Legrange relates how her family was betrayed in 1944 by a young refugee they took into their southern home from Nazi-occupied northern France.
She and her parents were interrogated and tortured by Barbie for over a week before they were ultimately shipped to Auschwitz.
At Auschwitz, the notorious “Angel of Death,” Josef Mengele, seemed to fixate on the young Lagrange, taunting her when her mother died.
He chose her to go to the gas chambers, but she managed to escape, and she survived the war.
It was almost 30 years later that she saw Barbie, then claiming to be Klaus Altmann, on a TV documentary, and felt compelled to identify him.
Although many Holocaust documentaries tend to be the same, Lagrange’s personal abuse at the hands of two of the Holocaust’s worst perpetrators gives this film a unique touch.
As A Young Girl of 13 is being screened Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., Dec. 12 at 9 p.m., Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 9 p.m.