ROME (Aug. 29)
Former SS Capt. Erich Priebke has received more than 600 letters from well wishers in Italy and elsewhere since he was extradited here last November from Argentina to face war crimes charges.
On Aug. 1 a military court declared Priebke, 83, guilty of taking part in the World War II massacre of 335 Italian civilians, but said he could not be punished because a 30-year statute of limitations had run out.
Italian authorities re-arrested Priebke just eight hours after the verdict, however, and he remains in a Rome prison awaiting a decision on a German request for extradition.
The Aug. 30 issue of the Italian weekly Epoca published excerpts of what it said were 645 letters, telegrams and other correspondence received by Priebke from his extradition on Nov. 20 until the middle of August.
Epoca reproduced a hand-written note by Priebke dated Aug. 14, detailing the receipt of 592 letters, 32 telegrams and 21 packages and stating that he had “exchanged correspondence with friends and sympathizers in Italy, Germany, Austria, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Australia, France, Canada, USA, Spain and Switzerland.”
The magazine also published the texts of seven letters, notes and postcards written to Priebke by Italians.
“Honor!!!” began one letter, from a 15-year-old boy identified as Carlo G. “You did your duty as a soldier and for your homeland. You were great and honest,” Carlo G. wrote.
“Your jailers have dirty consciences. They will never be happy. They should be ashamed.”
Said a letter written by a man named Paolo on Aug. 4, “Mr. Priebke, I express to you my solidarity because of the unworthy treatment you have suffered, treatment that is unworthy of a country that considers itself the cradle of law.
“I hope that this pseudo-democracy run by former Stalinist terrorists and hypocritical sacristans can find a crumb of the seriousness of behavior that you have superbly demonstrated. Stay strong!”