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gate and cave | by antmoose
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gate and cave

The gate, made in the form of spines, bars access to the cave where many of the victims were massacred. In order to save time -- for Hitler ordered that the reprisal be carried out within a day of the original bombing of German troops in via Rasella the day before -- the victims were ordered to climb onto the corpses of those killed immediately before, so the Germans would not have to pile up the bodies themselves.


The youngest victim was 15. About 78 of the 335 victims were Jews. A ten-to-one reprisal level -- ten Italians were to be slaughtered for every one German killed in the via Rasella attack -- brought the original number to 320 victims. When a 33rd German died of his wounds, the head of the SS in Rome, Herbert Kappler, on his own initiative decided to add ten more Italians to the list; an extra five who happened to be gathered up were killed "because they were there". -- this information only came out in 1994, when Kappler's second, Erich Priebke, was discovered in Argentina and later brought to trial.


It is worth noting that even the Germans found the slaughter of these innocent and harmless people horrifying. One even refused to carry it out, until Priebke put his arm around the soldier's waist and accompanied him, whereupon they shot two prisoners together. The soldiers were given increasing amounts of alcohol to numb the horror of the act, with the result that their aim became sloppy. Some victims had their head blown off by the bullets, while others seem to have survived the initial barrage and the explosion of the caves on top of them, and crawled off to die in a corner; one father and son were found dead in each other's arms.

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Taken on November 23, 2005