When you embark on your family history adventure it will not be long before you uncover family secrets and unsavory characters. You will find children born out of wedlock, aldulterers, wife beaters, bigamists, murderers, slave owners, con men and more.
Erich Priebke. I am pretty sure that most you have not heard this name before. He was the son of Gustav Wilhelm Ernst Priebke and Hedwig Selma Rosa Glänzer. Glänzer is one of the name variations in my One Name Study. My maternal grandmother was a Glaentzer.
I got Erich’s name from my cousin Christina in Germany who works on the One Name Study with me. She also sent me Erich’s occupation – SS-Hauptstrurmführer. Even if you don't speak German you probably understand SS. Erich was a captain in the German SS (Sicherheitspolizei) during World War II. He participated in the Fosse Ardeatine Massacre of 335 Italian citizens in 1944 and was later captured and held prisoner by the British. He managed to escape and he fled to Argentina where he lived a very comfortable life under the radar until 1994. Sam Donaldson from ABC news tracked him down and when he was approached for an interview he apparently felt it was safe to speak out after so many years. He admitted to his participation in the massacre to Mr. Donaldson. He said he wasn't guilty of anything because he was simply following orders. He was very wrong if he thought this explanation would be accepted. Now that his whereabouts were known he was arrested and extradited to Italy. He then went into an endless cycle of hearings, trials and appeals. He was sentenced several times with the sentence changing. His final sentence was life imprisonment but was given house arrest because of his age.
Erich died on 11 October 2013 in Rome, Italy at the age of 100. He wanted to be buried in Argentina next to his wife but Argentina refused. Germany also refused to allow the body to be returned there. The Vatican issued an order that his funeral could not be conducted in any Catholic church in Rome. He is buried in the Cimitero della Colonia Penale de Isili in Isili, Italy. It is a abandoned prison cemetery.
As tempting as it is for me to pretend that I never found this connection I must include him and his information in my file. History is history and you can’t change it. I could reduce Erich down to a list of vital statistics and pretend that I don’t know about his past but that would be an error by omission.
Erich Priebke Biography (Biography.com)
Erich Priebke: Nazi war criminal (BBC)
Erich Priebke, Nazi Who Carried Out Massacre of 335 Italians, Dies at 100 (NY Times)
Just following orders (The Economist)
Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.