Venerdi’ ho provato a spiegare la vicenda Priebke a un pubblico inglese. Ecco quel che ho detto.
You probably know who Eric Priebke was. A Nazi criminal, a commander of the SS in Rome and one of the responsible of the Fosse Ardeatine murder of 1944, when 335 Italian civilians (among them 75 Jews) were killed. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, Priebke received help from a bishop stationed in Rome and fled to Argentina on a Vatican passport, where he has lived for over 50 years.
In 1994, Priebke felt he could now talk about his role in the massacre and was interviewed by an American news reporter. This caused outrage and led to his extradition to Italy and a trial which would last more than four years.
At the end of such a trial, Priebke was found not guilty, for the reason of acting under orders. Rumours were that Germany would have put him immediately after on trial, but it did not happen. So, on August 1, 1996, orders were given for the immediate release of Priebke.
The Jewish community was outraged. Jewish demonstrators blocked the court for over seven hours after the trial.
Now, that was something: Jewish demonstrators against a shameful sentence of an Italian tribunal. I have to say that in that moment, we Jews, we Italian Jews, felt a sense of abandonment, of being left alone. A prominent Italian journalist asked for clemency towards “that old Grandpa”. You can read the newspapers at time, there was plenty of offensive remarks against the “tribal religion of the Jews”, their vengeful practices, and the damning “God of Old Testament” that prescribes never to forgive, etc.
Now, fast forward to today. Eric Priebke died few days ago. He has reache 100 years of age.
The Rome Mayor, fearful that Priebke’s tomb could become a pilgrim site for the Naziz, has decreed that that body has not to be buried in Rome. Which, in itself, is a good news.
Priebke had been a Catholic. But the current Pope is from Argentine, and is probably aware of the troubled past of his country when it comes to dealing with Nazi criminals. Maybe he does not want to repeat that past. So the Pope has forbidden the celebration of the funeral in any Catholic church. Priebke’s lawyer then found a monastery of traditional Catholics, who somehow split from the main Church decades ago, therefore are independent. The funeral of that Nazi criminal was then on the verge of being officiated, in Albano Laziale, a small village outside Rome.
And then the unbelievable –at least for me- happened. Dozens, hundreds of citizens of Albano Laziale and of the surrounding area, none of them Jewish, rise up. They rallied against the funeral. They stood for hours outside the monastery church, making very clear that they did not want the funeral of a Nazi happen in their village. That Eric Priebke, even if not guilty by an Italian military tribunal, has been, to their mind, culpable of mass murder. And, as such, he’s not worth of any honour, of any memorialization. There has a been continuous, ongoing, anti-Fascist demonstration. The Mayor has joined the protesters. They have even managed to disrupt to funeral. The traditional Catholic priest, apparently, has thrown his garments away, in the middle of the ceremony, and ran to a cell, while the coffin was taken away by the military police. At the moment, the military police is still deciding about what to do.
This is a big, big cultural change. Few years ago we Jews have been left alone. We had to face indifference. We had been summoned to pardon and to forgive the most horrendous crime ever endured in human history.
And now we discover we are not alone, not anymore.
Now, I don’t care about the corpse. The sooner they get rid of him, the better it is. Several Jewish voices, the Anti Defamation League, the World Jewish Congress, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, all call for a cremation and dispersal of the ashes, so that no mausoleum will be erected. I would suggest even to drop the corpse in the sea, after all it is an Argentine tradition (sorry, could not resist). I don’t care.
I am a Jew from Italy, and like all the Italian Jews I commemorate the Shoah every year, on October 16, anniversary of the deportation from Rome. On October 16, 2013 I can say I am not alone, not anymore. Now the Italians know that what hurts the Jews, what hurts their Jewish fellow citizens, hurts them as well. And Italians protest, with a loud voice, strong and clear.
The days of indifference seems to be over, and for me this is a reason to celebrate.
As for me, I have personally sent an E mail to the Mayor of that small village, Albano Laziale, may its citizens be remembered with honour. It was a very brief E mail, just the link to the news and a simple line: No pasaran. Molte grazie.