Wednesday, February 23, 2011

5. Erick Priebke- Former Nazi SS Captain

Today's photos:


1.  The monument at the entrance to the site of the Fosse Ardeatine complex.

2.  Erich Priebke rides to work on the back of his attorney's motor scooter. (Internet photo)

3.  Priebke nonchalantly shops for groceries in a Rome supermarket. (Internet photo)

4.  The Italian flag, IL Tricolore.  (Internet photo)

5.  The Italian and European Union flags are displayed on this military barracks on Via Garibaldi in Trastevere.

6.  The official poster celebrating 150 years of Italian unity.

7.  Here are IL Tricolore and Old Glory on the wall of my apartment.

8.  The monument to Giuseppe Mazzini on the Aventine Hill.





In Chapter 10 of Rome: Sights and Insights, entitled Le Fosse Ardeatine, we told the sad story of a brutal Nazi atrocity which happened in March of 1944 during the German occupation of Rome in World War II.  This update, or addendum, concerns a former German Nazi official named Erick Priebke, one of the key players in this dramatic and horrifying event.  What follows is a summary, in capsule form, of the various stages of this on-going story as they relate to Priebke, including the latest developments which occurred after the publication of the book.


23 March 1944                                                                                                                                  

Sixteen Italian partisans attack a marching column of German soldiers on Via Rasella in Rome during the German occupation of the City.  Thirty-three Germans are killed in the attack.  All the partisans escape unharmed.


24 March 1944 

By order of Adolf Hitler, 335 Italians are rounded up and executed by the Germans in the caves of the Fosse Ardeatine near the ancient catacombs of San Calisto as a reprisal for the attack.  None of these people had been involved in the partisan attack the preceding day.


9 May 1994 

Erick Priebke, former SS captain, identified as one of the German officials directly responsible for the slaughter, is discovered and arrested in Argentina.  Italy requests extradition.


21 November 1995

Priebke is returned to Italy for trial.


7 March 1998 

The former Nazi captain is condemned to life imprisonment.


8 February 1999

After only eleven months of prison, Priebke is granted house arrest in Rome "for reasons of health".


March, 1999 

Priebke's wife makes a plea for a pardon for her husband.  The request is denied.


12 June 2007

The former Nazi official, now 93 years old, receives authorization to leave his house in order to accept a job in the law firm of his Italian attorney.  When a picture of Priebke riding on the back of his attorney's motor scooter is published in a Rome newspaper, such a public outcry arises that his work permit is revoked.  He returns to house arrest.


4 October 2010 

Pictures of Priebke, now 96 years old, appear in the newspaper showing him nonchalantly grocery shopping in a Rome supermarket.  It is learned that he has been given permission to leave his house for several hours every week to "shop for groceries, attend Mass and go to the pharmacy".  In addition, it is learned that he is allowed to make phone calls and receive visitors (upon authorization by a judge).  This produces another strong public protest, especially from the Jewish community. (Seventy Jews were among the executed Italians at the Fosse Ardeatine).  Another thorn in the side for many is the fact that Priebke has been given, at taxpayer expense, a police escort when he is out of the house in order to protect him from possible harm. (Up to now there has not been any direct insult or threat made to him).


So this is how the situation stands at present.  As I stated in the book, this episode is still an open wound in all of Italy, but especially in Rome where the atrocity took place.  Many family members of the innocent people slaughtered at the Fosse Ardeatine are demanding that Priebke remain under strict house arrest.  There are those who wonder why, in 1999, he was granted house arrest in the first place "for reasons of health" when, judging from the pictures of him in the supermarket eleven years later, he seems to be in good, even robust shape despite his advanced years.  Priebke, by the way, has never repented or expressed regret for his involvement in the slaughter.


There have been several movies made based on this event.  None of them are completely accurate, but in my opinion, the one which is most faithful to the facts is a 1973 movie entitled Massacre in Rome, starring Marcello Mastroiani and Richard Burton.


Celebrating Italian Unification: 1861-2011

The national flag of Italy is the symbol of the country's unity.  The history of the Italian flag, like the history of the country itself, is very complicated.  What follows is an attempt to simplify the story without detracting from its rich history.  The flag, as we know it today, usually called in Italian il tricolore (the tri-color), came into use on June 19, 1946 after the referendum establishing a republic.  It became official with the promulgation of the Constitution of the Italian Republic on January 1, 1948.  Article 12 of the Constitution reads as follows:

La bandiera della Repubblica è il tricolore italiano: verde, bianco e rosso, a tre bande verticali di eguali dimensioni.

The flag of the Republic is the Italian tri-color: green, white and red, in three vertical bands of equal dimensions.

There are several interpretations of the significance of the colors of the flag.  Here are two of them, one tending towards the patriotic, and the other tending towards the religious.

Patriotic interpretation:

Green:           The plains and hills of Italy.

White:           The snow-capped peaks of the Alps.

Red:               The blood which was shed in the wars of independence.


Religious interpretation (the three cardinal virtues):


Green:           Hope.

White:           Faith.

Red:               Charity.


There were many versions of the tricolore between 1797 when it first appeared in parts of Northern Italy, and the definitive version of 1946 which we know today.  Most of the earlier versions used the same colors, but arranged them in various ways and with a variety of symbols superimposed on them. Different shades of green and red were also used.  Since the current, simplified version is dictated by the Constitution, it cannot be changed without a constitutional amendment.  It was Giuseppe Mazzini, one of the founding fathers of the modern Italian Republic who, in 1831, pointed to the tricolore as a sign of an Italy which was ". . . one, free, independent, republican . . ."



The Beatification of Pope John Paul II


If you are planning to be in Rome between April 30 and May 2, I hope you already have your hotel reservations because most hotels, B&B's, apartments, etc. are booked solid for that three-day period.  The reason?  The Beatification of Pope John Paul II.  Millions of people are expected to flood the Eternal City for this event; two million alone are expected from the late pope's native Poland.


Usually for papal events such as this one, and for the weekly Wednesday audience, it is necessary to secure a ticket in order to attend.  You don't BUY the ticket; it is always free, but you do have to obtain one in order to attend.  This time around Vatican officials are expecting so many people that it would be impossible to demand that everyone obtain a ticket.  So no ticket is necessary and there are no reserved seats this time around.


The proof that they are expecting millions of people is seen in the locations chosen for the three main ceremonies.  The first is a vigil the night of April 30 which will take place in the Circus Maximus, presided over by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini.  The second, the next day on May 1, is the actual Beatification ceremony which will be held in St. Peter's Square, presided over by Pope Benedict XVI.  Finally, on the following day, May 2, there will be a Mass of Thanksgiving in St. Peter's Basilica celebrated by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone.  Even these three enormous spaces will not be nearly large enough to accomodate all those who wish to attend.


Following the Beatification ceremony, it will be possible for the faithful to view the coffin of the late pope.  It will be brought up from the crypt of the basilica, where he was buried six years ago, and exposed to the public on the floor of St. Peter's Basilica in front of the Altar of the Confession (Main Altar).  Mind you, the body will not be visible, only the coffin which contains the body.


Following this, in a private ceremony, the remains of the pope will be entombed in the Chapel of St. Sebastian on the main floor of the basilica.  This is the second chapel on the right as you enter the basilica, just past the Chapel of the Pietà.  This same procedure was followed after the Beatification of Pope John XXIII when his body was brought up from the crypt and placed beneath the Altar of St. Jerome.


Vatican officials continue to remind everyone that there are no tickets to any of these ceremonies, either for free or for pay.  They continue to make  this announcement because, believe it or not, there are bagarini (scalpers) on the internet offering tickets to the ceremonies "at discounted prices"!  Don't buy a ticket!


Post a Comment