Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Priebke Vergogna: A Reminder that the Nazis were in Rome

We know Dianne took this photograph, in Monti, on June 19, 2007. But we could probably have come close to that date by looking carefully at its content. Much is standard: a shop's metal shutter; a concert poster; one of the ubiquitous yellow advertisements for an apartment for rent; a no-parking sign (sosta vietata); and the usual excess of bad graffiti on almost everything, including the smooth marble.

The white sign is what's distinctive. It reads:

Gli Italiani
Non Dimenticano
Fosse Ardeatine

The Italians
Don't Forget
Fosse Ardeatine

An old friend with whom we've shared Rome and who values our efforts in Rome the Second Time, nonetheless has expressed her irritation at the amount of attention we devote to the Nazis and the Germans in Rome. She's Jewish, and likely she's just tired of being reminded of what happened to Europe's Jews, including those who lived in Italy and Rome.

We appreciate and understand that sentiment, if it is, indeed, what she feels. But the white sheet of paper posted on the wall in Dianne's photo tells us that for many Romans these issues, and the distant past that produced them, are very much alive.
Priebe is Erich Priebke.
Born in Germany in 1913, Waffen SS Captain Priebke participated in the killings of 335 Italian civilians (including 75 Jews) at the Fosse (Caves) Ardeatine in 1944 (below right). Priebke later admitted to keeping the list of those who were to be executed, and of personally killing two people with a machine pistol. He may also have had a role in the deportation of 6,000 to 7,000 Jews from Italy to Auschwitz. But he thought the Fosse Ardeatine killings, personally ordered by Hitler, to be justifiable retaliation for the deadly bombing of a German troop column in via Rasella (we describe these events in more detail in Rome the Second Time).

Priebke was scheduled to be tried in the postwar era, but managed to flee to Argentina, where he lived as a free man for 50 years. After giving an interview to ABC's Sam Donaldson in 1994 in which he described the victims as "terrorists,"
Priebke was extradited to Italy, where before an Italian court he pleaded not guilty and again justified his actions. The judges ruled that the time limit for prosecuting the case had expired, and Priebke was released. On court appeal, Priebke was tried again in 1997, found guilty, sentenced to life in prison and, because of his age, put under house arrest in Rome.

Why, in June 2007, were Romans again concerned about Priebke? Because, on June 12 the court authorized him to leave his home in order to use his considerable skills as a multi-lingual translator in the office of his lawyer. After a day of protests led by the Italian Jewish community, a magistrate revoked the new work permit.

Dianne took the photo a week later.


1 comment:

Marilyn said...

VERGOGNA INDEED! Even now it rankles that Priebke was able to live out his life with impunity!