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Oscar-nominated filmmakers to make documentary on Nazi-hunting French couple

Romanian Alexander Nanau and UK’s Mike Lerner to team up on film about Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, who brought several prominent Nazis, among them Klaus Barbie, to justice

French nazi hunters Serge and his wife Beate Klarsfeld attend a ceremony to inaugurate the renovated Wall of Names, at the Shoah memorial in Paris, January 27, 2020. (Michel Euler/AP)
French nazi hunters Serge and his wife Beate Klarsfeld attend a ceremony to inaugurate the renovated Wall of Names, at the Shoah memorial in Paris, January 27, 2020. (Michel Euler/AP)

JTA — Two of the world’s most famous Nazi hunters, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, are getting the documentary treatment.

Alexander Nanau, a Romanian filmmaker whose documentary “Collective” is up for both best documentary and best foreign film at this year’s Oscars on Sunday, will executive produce a film about the Klarsfelds, who have exposed Nazis around the world for decades.

“It has been a huge privilege to have gained the trust and cooperation of Beate and Serge to document their extraordinary lives both past and present,” co-director Mike Lerner said in a statement Monday to The Hollywood Reporter.

Lerner’s 2011 documentary “Hell and Back Again” about a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder was nominated for an Oscar in 2012.

Romanian director Alexander Nanau, poses for a photograph outside the Elvire Popesco cinema in Bucharest, Romania, April 12, 2021. (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

The Klarsfelds have brought several prominent Nazis and French Vichy collaborators to justice.

Born September 17, 1935, in the Romanian capital Bucharest, Serge Klarsfeld escaped the Holocaust after his family moved to France but saw his father taken away to die in the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp.

He was naturalized in 1950, and 10 years later, while studying at the prestigious Science-Po university in Paris, Klarsfled met Beate Kuenzel, the daughter of a former German soldier, on a metro platform.

The two, who married three years later, decided to bring fugitive Nazis to justice, a mission they pursued for more than half a century.

Filmmaker Mike Lerner poses for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival at the Fender Music Lodge, in Park City, Utah, Jan. 18, 2013. (Victoria Will/Invision/AP Images)

In one of their most high-profile cases, the Klarsfelds found the notorious Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, a former Gestapo officer known as the “Butcher of Lyon” for his wartime torture of prisoners, who had escaped to South America.

In 1971, the Klarsfelds revealed that Barbie was living in Bolivia, and in 1983 he was extradited to France. Four years later he was convicted in a trial, and later died behind bars.

They also pursued members of France’s collaborationist Vichy regime, including Rene Bouquet, Jean Leguay and Marice Papon — despite obstruction from president Francois Mitterrand.

French policemen lead a handcuffed Klaus Barbie, center, out of the courtroom in Lyon, after he was convicted on July 4, 1987, of crimes against humanity when he was Gestapo chief in this city. (AP Photo)

Mitterrand’s successor Jacques Chirac finally recognized France’s role in the deportations, a declaration Serge Klarsfeld said owed much to his and Beate’s campaigning.

“Neither could have succeeded without the other,” their daughter Lida once said.

In 2018 Serge Klarsfeld received the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award, while Beate Klarsfeld received the National Order of Merit, having already been decorated with the Legion of Honor in 2014, with the rank of Grand Officer.

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