When they married in 1963, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld swore a lifelong mission together: to track down Nazis, by both "legal and illegal" methods, so justice could be meted out. Among those they found was ex-Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie—aka "the Butcher of Lyon"—in 1971 in Bolivia, and now France is showering honors upon them for their efforts. The BBC and AP report that a ceremony was held Monday evening at the Elysee Palace in which President Emmanuel Macron presented Serge, 83, with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, the nation's most esteemed award, while Beate, 79, received the country's National Order of Merit. Serge had received a lower-tier version of the Legion of Honor in 2014. His backstory is a compelling one, starting with his family's escape from the Nazis in Romania to their trials in France, where he managed to escape the Gestapo in Nice.
His father, however, wasn't so lucky and died at Auschwitz. Beate, meanwhile, was the daughter of a German soldier who once slapped German Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger in the face at a 1968 political rally, per Insider. Together, the determined couple not only followed the trail to Barbie—who was responsible for the torture or deaths of tens of thousands of people during the war, and who died in prison in France in 1991 thanks to their detective work—but also to at least 10 other war criminals. Their son, Arno, named for Serge's father, is a lawyer who now helps them prosecute the criminals they find, per the Guardian. "Neither could have succeeded without the other," their daughter, Lida, once noted, per AFP. (Read more Klaus Barbie stories.)