“Justice left the court room and was replaced by Vengeance.”
Erich Priebke speaks on the background to his unlawful imprisonment
Nr. 1 Januar 2005. Translated
by Fredrick Töben.
DS: Mr Priebke, wherefrom do you get your moral strength, unbroken
and entering your 11th year of deprivation of liberty?
Priebke: I feel myself innocent of the charges laid against me
because I considered the commanded retaliation to be legal – a severe
war measure that all leading war powers during war have executed.
Knowing that I am innocent gives me strength.
DS: The impetus to your persecution was to have come from a
teacher. Who was he? Is that so?
Priebke: Yes, that’s true. It was the secondary teacher Fritz
Küper, whom I employed for our German-Argentinian School, and –
contrary to our practice – I terminated his two-year contract. In
anger to that and upon his return to Germany he defamed me and the
whole school administration. His letter to Beate Klarsfeld is
reproduced in full in our book.*
DS: The successive trials were initiated against you until the
desired result was obtained. How do those three judgments
differentiate themselves in their verdicts?
Priebke: The first trial lasted three months with 25 hearing
days. Here the state counsel for the prosecution and the 20 lawyers
acting on behalf of the co-plaintiff had ample opportunity to
interrogate me, and especially to accuse me of the most diverse
offenses, without offering any evidence whatsoever. They defamed and
insulted me and a clique of useful idiots was always present to
applaud them. On 1 August 1996 in the name of the Italian people three
judges declared me a free man. At once the Jewish co-plaintiffs
organized a massive protest action for many hours until the Italian
Justice Minister, not having anything better to do, had me
re-arrested. The following trials were conducted under the pressure of
my persecutors – Justicia had left the courtroom and was replaced by
DS: Were you not a few years after the war ended – just like your
earlier comrades at the branch office Rome of the same, lower or
higher rank, and the same charge – acquitted by an Italian military
tribunal? Didn’t the officer who led the shooting of the hostages in
the Adriatic caves later resume his police duties and retire as a
criminal investigation commissioner?
Priebke: Yes, in the trial against our commander Kappler, my
five co-accused were acquitted of all charges, because they had
to obey orders from above, and they held the revenge acts as legal.
All accused of the Commando Rome were acquitted because we all had to
follow the same orders. It is also true that the former officer
appointed by Kappler returned after the war to his duties.
DS: As an ex-Hauptsturmführer, i.e. a former captain who
received orders in the second last row you quasi advanced to the
Führer's substitute. How do you feel about that?
Priebke: You may perhaps know that here in Italy the judgment
against me is hotly disputed. Often I am named as the “scapegoat” for
what crimes the Germans are to have committed as chosen by my
persecutors. They invented, organized and orchestrated the Case
Priebke. As I soon as I recognized this I was determined not to let
them get the better of me.
DS: If one recalls how they rage against you, then one recalls the
dark Middle Ages – while the pronouncements of the powers-that-be in
the third millennium drip of humanity, freedoms and Orwellian
new-speak. Do you also see it like that?
Priebke: Yes, and I am sad that here in Rome, the centre of
Catholic Christianity, in my case “la misericordia”, Christian mercy
does not exist anymore.
DS: In the middle of the year you will be 92 years old. Your
persecutors long ago had hoped for “the termination of the case
Priebke” through the “biological final solution”. What are you doing
to reach 100 years of age?
Priebke: For many years my wife and I lived according to the
rules, which we thought were best for our health. When on 20 November
1995 I was forcefully separated from my beloved Alice, she was just as
healthy as I was, but the separation hit her hard so that she suffered
a shock that robbed her of her memory. When she recently died she did
not have any physical frailties. She died of despair on account of
our separation at our advanced age and our family tragedy. I keep fit
as best I can.
DS: You are still a German citizen. The federal Republic of Germany
owes you a duty of care. What have the highest holders of office and
their deputies done to get you released or to be amnestied?
Priebke: I have written this in many letters to my friends:
Neither Kohl-Herzog nor Schröder-Rau lifted a finger for an old German
citizen who without blame finds himself in distress in a foreign
DS: A few months ago your wife died in Argentina with whom you were
married for 65 years. You did not see her again. Can you comment on
Priebke: It was my greatest wish once again to embrace my loyal
partner for life. This wish was not to be fulfilled. Anyone can
obviously imagine what I think about this and about my persecutors.
DS: Your first defence counsel, Avvocato Velio Di Rezze
characterized you in one sentence: “E’ Signore – he is a gentleman”.
You call your co-author Dr Giachini your “guardian angel” – in a
sentence or two can you describe him using a profane concept,
similarly to how your lawyer portrayed you?
Priebke: Many people say there are no coincidences, and
everything has its reason. When Dr Giachini first tried to visit me in
the military prison at Forte Boccea, I had already refused many
applications for visits. I didn’t wish to see any of these people, who
out of curiosity or for other personal reasons wished to see this
“Ex-Nazi”. Not so Dr Giachini – he wrote out of “humanitarian
grounds”, something I appreciated and that made me curious. In this
way I found my guardian angel and my life saver – my faithful friend
Paolo. What he has done and is doing for me cannot be conveyed in a
DS: You live in the capital city of Christianity; the highest
representative of this religion of charity and forgiveness, Pope John
Paul II, is also the Bishop of Rome, that means he is also your Bishop
because you are a Catholic. It appears he has never interceded on your
behalf. Did anyone during Christmas offer to light up your dark
Priebke: In 1997 together with a priest friend of mine I wrote
a letter to Pope John Paul II, and the friend also wrote a letter.
Though we knew that both letters arrived safely, we never received a
reply. Christmas cheer and happiness arrives in the form of the
hundreds of letters and greeting cards that I receive from my many
friends all over the world, but especially from Austria and Germany,
and those many letters from my Italian sisters and brothers nearby.
DS: Mr Priebke, we thank you!
* Erich Priebke: Vae Victis. Autobiografia,
now in German: Vae Victis. Die Autobiographie, 800 pages.
Available from DS-Verlag, Postfach 100068, D-01571 Riesa, Germany.