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'Nazi hunting' couple named UNESCO ambassadors

Serge and Beate Klarsfeld have tirelessly documented Holocaust victims and exposed their perpetrators. UNESCO has now enlisted the couple as educators on genocide prevention.

UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has praised the Klarsfelds for "their commitment to reconciling justice and truth" and "their wake-up call to societies to recognize their historical and moral responsibilities."

They have dedicated themselves since the end of World War II to bringing to light individual stories of Holocaust victims as well as the involvement of Nazis and their French collaborators.

The couple was also honored last week by the German government with its highest award, the Order of Merit. The German ambassador to France praised the couple for "rehabilitating the image of Germany."

The power of a single story

Serge Klarsfeld, born in 1935 in Romania, was deported from France during World War II and lost his father to the Holocaust. As a writer, lawyer and historian, he has since sought to ensure accountability for the genocide.

Beate Klarsfeld at the Bundestag in 1968

Beate Klarsfeld at the Bundestag in 1968

He found his match in Beate Auguste Künzel. The daughter of a German soldier, she claims to have "always acted as a German, never forgetting her historic and moral responsibility." In 1968, she was sentenced to prison and grabbed worldwide attention for smacking German Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger in the eye, confronting him with his past as a Nazi member and propagandist.

Diving into archives, the two played a key role in bringing to trial a number of French collaborators and Nazis operating in France during the occupation. This most famously includes Klaus Barbie, a Gestapo chief known as the "Butcher of Lyon."

According to Serge Klarsfeld, the work has always been about the "search of justice for the victims," never revenge.

Together they pressed the French government to recognize the country's participation in the deportation of Jews during the occupation. Through their "Association of the Sons and Daughters of Jews Deported from France," they documented and memorialized the 80,000 Jews sent from France to death camps during the war. President Jacques Chirac finally offered the recognition in 1995.

UNESCO states that the Klarsfelds work under the conviction that the Holocaust "is not the story of six million, but of 1+1+1+1+1…"

jtm/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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