Today is Hutch’s birthday; he’s 17. *Sniff* Since I am watching him and Abigail for Atticus he was at my house this morning when he woke up. I did what any older sister would do, and tackled him onto the couch screeching “Happy Birthday” until Abigail came out of the bathroom and we serenaded him together. Do I want to take a whole day and acknowledge that my little brother is about to be 18, that my little brother is coming closer and closer to being a ‘man’? No, I don’t. I want to live in ignorant bliss where I grow older but he stays the way he is now; young, innocent, and sprinkled with freckles with the biggest blue eyes you’ve ever seen. When I see little hairs popping up on his chin, I make fun of him of course, but it also hits me that soon he will have the stubble of a man, much like our older brother, Josh. We will celebrate his birthday, as only a close-knit family can; his choice of dinner, competitive games, and cake. It’s a weird feeling being so happy and thankful because 17 years ago he was born, but also being sad because he’s growing older. To make today even more blah, I’ve spilled some mystery drink on my nice new shirt and it’s not even 9:00 yet. Sigh.
Well, Happy Birthday little brother. I love you more than words can describe, and I can’t wait to continue watching you grow up.
Does this have anything to do with the prompt? Nope. So, I’ll get on with the piece of news I’ve decided to write about.
Do you know, without Googling for the answer, who Erich Priebke is? I didn’t either, until this prompt instructed me to scour the news for a story this morning. Erich Priebke, who died last month at 100 years old, was a former Nazi SS officer who was living the rest of his life under house arrest because of war crimes from World War II. To be honest, I had no idea who this man was or even that he existed. As much as I am an advocate for the extermination of Capital punishment, [defense attorney’s daughter/catholic…hello?] I am surprised he didn’t receive the death penalty as much of his ‘Nazi brothers’ in the greatest trial in history; The Nuremberg Trials.
54 years after a confessed Preibke helped in the killing of 335 civilians at the Ardeatine Caves in Rome, he was finally definitively convicted in 1998. He also admitted to drawing up a list of civilians names and checking them off as the victims received execution shots to the back of the head and neck. He admitted to shooting two of those victims personally. According to the news Preibke and fellow Nazi’s carried out these orders in answer to a bomb the day before which had taken the lives of 33 German soldiers.
Also, according to the news, the Catholic Church denied him a public funeral mass and Italy didn’t want his body to be buried in their country. Germany, his “motherland” also rejected his corpse; their reason for doing so being they didn’t want it to be a congregation site for “Neo-Nazi’s”. Priebke ended up being buried in an overgrown cemetery marked by a single wooden cross. There was no name, only a number engraved into the wood so that family could know where to visit him.
You may be asking, “But how does the death of some 100-year-old, old man relate to you?” His death may not directly affect my life or those around me, but his life helped affect the entire world’s history. Each one of those soldiers’ participation, whether it was docile or passionate, helped fuel the raging beast of Nazi Germany. Each pair of boots, each helmet, each swastika accounted for one of the greatest wars and atrocities humanity has ever been witness to. No one can utter the words, “One man can not change history”. Hitler proved that theory wrong. Priebke may not have been as impactful as other SS officers, but to at least two innocent lives, he was literally the judge, jury, and most importantly the executioner.
I hope for the sake of his soul, he repented for all the years of his life. By the Catholic Church’s public condemnation, I assume he did not. As the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief with the passing of one of the last “prisoner’s of war”, we can continue to get on with our lives.