Saturday, 23 February 2008

Still Looking for the Nazi Otto Sein

(Photo: Fossoli campo di transito verso la morte by Claudio Testa).

Saturday, February 16th 2008, the former S.S. officer Michael Seifert landed in Rome. Mr Seifert, previously known as 'Misha', has to expiate a life sentence owing to war crimes committed between Summer 1944 and April 1945 in the concetration camps of Fossoli and Bolzano, in Northern Italy (repubbblica.it).

Mr Seifert was born in Landau, Ukraine, in 1924. He was twenty when he served as a guard in Fossoli and Bolzano with a sadic companion, Mr Otto Sein, under the commander Alcino Cologna. As many other Nazi officers, Mr Seifert escaped during the liberation of Europe in Spring 1945. He was living in Vancouver, Canada, since 1951.

The Military Court of Verona sentenced Mr Seifert by default on November, 2000 (anpi.it). The sentence was confirmed by the Court of Appeal in 2001 and by the Corte di Cassazione in 2002. Finally, on Thursday, January 17th 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada decided to extradiate him to Italy.

More than twenty survivors recognized him as the torturer who killed several people among the prisoners of the two camps. Particularly, along with Mr Sein, Mr Seifert killed a fifteen-year-old Jewish girl by stabbing her with the necks of broken bottles. He raped a pregnant woman and then killed her. He starved to death a fifteen-yeard-old Jewish boy. He tortured a Jewish mother and her daughter, pouring cold water on them and strangling them. He killed a young partisan banging his head on the wall, accusing him of having stolen some bread (anpi.it and canada.com/vancouversun).

Mr Berto Perotti witnessed that: "In quelle occasioni, i due circolavano per i corridoi con i guanti di pelle nera. Erano diventati un simbolo, e quando li vedevamo in quel modo, un brivido correva per le celle. Non si sapeva a chi toccava il turno." [In those occasions, the two of them strolled along the corridors wearing black skin gloves. They had become a symbol, and when we saw them like that, a shiver ran through the cells. We didn't know whose the turn was] (repubblica.it).

The 88 years old Marisa Scala said: "sono contenta, perché il nostro paese dimentica tutto, e pensa solo alle cavolate; ma per una volta certe cose non sono passate, dimenticate: sbaglia chi dice che sono passati troppi anni." [I'm happy, because our country usually forgets everything, and thinks only of stupid things. But once some other things had not been forgotten. The ones who say that too many years elapsed are wrong.] ("Ho sconfitto il boia", La Stampa, February 17th 2008).

Survivals' evidences are collected into the book Anche a volerlo raccontare è impossibile, edited by Mr Giorgio Mezzalira and Ms Cinzia Villani for ANPI Bolzano (deportati.it).

Transit camps such as Fossoli and Carpi were used by the Nazis to collect people and then deport them to extermination camps. Mr Dario Venegoni's estimates say that about 40,000 Italians were deported during World War II. They were mainly Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, partisans and anti-fascists in general. At least 36,000 of them were exterminated.

The 84 year-old Michael Seifert will probably serve his time in a Roman flat, owing to the fact that he is too old to stay in jail. That's not enough: we still want to find his companion, Mr Otto Sein. So that the two of them could lie together under the same deep tombstone: "Here lie the two Nazi murderers of Fossoli and Bolzano, Misha and Otto".

"I l'a butada / sora l' tavolasso, / i l'à lassada sola, / qualche giorno, / fin tanto che 'na sera / Missa e Oto / i s'à inciavado nela cela nera / e i gh'è restà par una note intiera. / E dala cela vièn par ore e ore / straco un lamento de butìn che more."


[And they threw her / over a table, / and they left her alone, / for some days, / till a night when / Misha and Otto / locked themselves into the black cell / and stood there the whole night long. / And from the cell, for hours and ours, it comes / a tired out dying moan.]

(Egidio Meneghetti, Bortolo e l'ebreeta, 1955).