20 user 23 critic

Hôtel Terminus (1988)

Unrated | | Documentary, Biography | November 1988 (USA)
A documentary about Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo chief of Lyon, and his life after the war.



Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Johannes Schneider-Merck ...
German Import-Exporter, Barbie's Neighbour in Lima
Raymond Lévy ...
Billiard Player in Lyon
Marcel Cruat ...
Billiard Player in Lyon
Henri Varlot ...
Billiard Player in Lyon
Pierre Mérindol ...
Journalist from Lyon
Johann Otten ...
Farmer, School Friend from Barbie's native village
Peter Minn ...
Wehrmacht Major, retired, Barbie's high school friend
Claude Bourdet ...
Resistance Leader
Eugene Kolb ...
Lt., C.I.C. Control Officer, retired, Barbie's former Superior
Lise Lesèvre ...
Member of the French Underground
Lucie Aubrac ...
Resistance Leader
Raymond Aubrac ...
Resistance Leader
Simone Lagrange ...
Auschwitz Survivor


This full-length documentary deals with the life, career and trial of Nazi SS officer Klaus Barbie, known as the Butcher of Lyons. Virtually all aspects of his life are covered. His childhood and schooling in Germany; his early military career; his role in the head of intelligence in Lyons; his post-war employment by the US military; his life in Bolivia; his return to Europe; his trial and conviction. Interviewed are friends, enemies, associates, heroes and traitors. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

lyon | trial | bolivia | post war | gestapo | See All (32) »


Unrated | See all certifications »



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Release Date:

November 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie  »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Director Marcel Ophüls deliberately chose not to show any Holocaust footage as he felt that audiences had become too used to gruesome imagery of that nature. See more »


Featured in Zomergasten: Episode #6.2 (1993) See more »

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User Reviews

7 July 2002 | by See all my reviews

What an infuriating documentary. Actually, as I write this, it has been almost exactly ten months since Al Qaida flew two passenger jets into the World Trade Center. A shocking event which killed more than two thousand innocent people and forever altered the skyline I admired so much as a kid. I wondered at the time if any entrepreneurs would have the chutzpah to somehow turn this appalling thing into a marketing gimmick and concluded that no one would. But I was wrong. Six months after the fact, ads began cropping up for medals made out of the actual steel frames of the collapsed towers. Little by little, other somber commercials appeared. Some brokerage firm now has TV commercials featuring real-life, actual SURVIVORS of the tragic WORLD TRADE CENTER catasrophe! The survivors, their pockets stuffed full of cash, face the camera and tell us of their experiences, ending with the conclusion that the best way to fight terrorism is to go right on working and to invest with Salomon Smith Barney or whomever.

I'm afraid "Hotel Terminus" generates the same feeling, a mixture of anger and disgust. The deportation, imprisonment, and murder of Jews and other minorities is far too horrifying an historical fact to serve as a vehicle for such an on-screen display of self righteousness. Ophuls did a superb job in "The Sorrow and the Pity," mainly by letting the participants and the newsreels speak for themselves about a situation filled with ambiguities. And how eloquent those sources were! Here, we get way too much of Marcel Ophuls telling us what we're supposed to be thinking and feeling, and about a situation in which good and evil were relatively clear cut.

It isn't that his self display fails to be engaging. He's a good performer. Searching for an unwilling interviewee, he wanders through the guy's garden patch, lifting cabbage leaves and asking, "Are you under here?" And he does a splendid reenactment of a telephone call to another prospective interviewee, playing both parts. Those participant who agreed to be interviewed do a pretty good job of hanging themselves, by the way. One of them comes up with something like, "Oh, yes, Barbie wasn't a bad fellow. He loved his dog." (No kidding.) It would have been fine if Ophuls had left it at that, although a viewer might understandably wonder how many snippets of conversation had been edited out, and what they consisted of. Weren't there any good guys at all? Can an entire population be so stupid and unfeeling? And Ophuls ridicules on camera those witnesses were were unwilling to speak to him about the carryings on that they clearly feel guilty about, or at least ashamed of, because, as they frequently argue, it all happened so long ago. What does Ophuls expect of them? That they should "come forward" like guests on Oprah Winfrey? If they could ablate their memories as easily as Ophuls can edit his film, they would surely do it.

One scene is especially irritating. On camera Ophuls visits a house or hotel that Barbi presumably once lived in. The proprietor emerges and begins to speak to Ophuls. The only language he knows is French. (Ophuls is equally good in French, German, and English.) As Ophuls begins to throw him some change-ups, though, the proprietor begins to back off, saying he'd rather not talk anymore. Ophuls then begins shouting accusations at the guy -- in ENGLISH. The guy is backing dumbly away, with occasional protests, while Ophuls screams things like, "The reason you don't want to talk is that you KNOW he lived in your house," and so on. Well -- this isn't an interview. This is Marcel Ophuls playing Yaweh for the rolling cameras, for the English-speaking audience.

It will be a sad day for the entrepreneurs when all of the participants and witnesses to these events have grown old and died. There will be no one left alive to humiliate and to blame. We'll need to start all over again, with only the historical record providing us with a guidebook about what not to do next.

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