ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Encounter with a Nazi: The Butcher of Genoa

Updated on August 5, 2014
re-edited work via bing image search
re-edited work via bing image search | Source

A Chance Encounter

In my earlier years, my husband, and I were stationed at Sembach Air Base, a little site located not too far from the town of Kaiserslautern, Germany. Every so often, I had the chance to take leave, and go back home to visit family in Alaska. On one such occasion, I had a very unusual experience, and to this day, I find quite fascinating because little did I know who or what I was dealing with on that fateful day.

The flight from Germany all the way to Fairbanks, Alaska is quite long and taxing. Nearly eighteen hours of flight. You switch planes so many times that you become numb, actually quite literally blind to the strangers sitting right beside you. All you want to do is escape your cramped seat, and finish the flight.

As I recall, the last leg of my flight from Seattle to Anchorage was about four hours long. While in flight, an elderly gentleman who had been sitting beside me for the past few hours suddenly started choking on his dinner. Alarmed, I reached over and started to pat his back. A moment after his recovery, he nodded at me and then thanked me. Of course, I immediately noticed his German accent, and so naturally, I asked him about his nationality. When he replied that he was indeed originally from Germany, I became even more curious, and so I introduced myself. He was kind enough to tell me that his name was Frederick and that he was traveling from a visit in South America and on his way to visit family members who lived in Anchorage. When he told me, this there was a sudden alarm that went off in my mind. In the past, I had seen a documentary about German soldiers who fled for South America in an attempt to escape the Nuremberg Trials. Was Frederick was one of these Nazis who were on the run.

I asked him.

A Young Friedrich Engel

Friedrich Engel. a young officer re-edited work via bing image search
Friedrich Engel. a young officer re-edited work via bing image search | Source

Turchino Pass

A Discreet Conversation

"Did you serve in the German Army during the World War?"

"I did.” He replied.

"You mean Hitler's Army, right?"

Frederick stared at me for a long moment and then nodded his head with a solid reply. "Yes."

"So what did you do in the Army?"

"I was an officer.” He replied. "They called me the Butcher of Genoa."

At that moment, my mind confirmed what I had been thinking. Indeed, I was sitting next to a Nazi who might very well be on the lam. I knew I had no reason to be frightened. After all, I guessed he was an old man mid-way in his seventies, and he seemed rather docile in nature, not at all an international war criminal. So there I sat next to the enemy. Of course, I really didn't see him as an enemy. Perhaps an enemy to the Jew, yet strangely I have to admit that I didn't feel any grudge towards this man. How could I? I did not live in that time, nor could I pass judgment on something that I knew very little of. I decided to find out for myself about this man named Frederick, the German Nazi officer.

"Why did they call you that?"

"They claim that I killed a bunch of Italians ... partisans.” He murmured. Shaking his head, he finished with a definite resonance in his voice. "I didn't kill anyone."

Wisely, I remained silent while soaking in this incredible information.

"It was not my decision.” He continued. "As a soldier, sometimes you endure things whether you like it or not."

"Did you have regrets?” I asked.

"Of course I have regrets. “ He replied. "But my position gave me little choice but to follow orders. If not, there are many repercussions. Like you, we Germans have families, and loved ones whom we wanted to protect."

Nodding my head, I understood his point of view.

A Slight Omission

"So did you ever get to meet Hitler?"

"I did once at a field parade.” He returned with a hint of pride in his voice. "Hitler pointed at me and made a comment to my commanding officer that I would make a fine commander one day."

At this point, I don't even think he was aware of my presence anymore. He seemed far away as he looked forward while remembering a humorous experience he then changed the subject.

"There was this bank in Milan. The rumor going around was that it was filled with gold.” He began with a wry smile. "We spent all day trying to break into that vault. Finally, we got smart enough to wire some dynamite to the vault and blew the doors open. Do you know what we found inside that vault?"

He waited patiently for me to respond.

"What did you find?"

"Well, there wasn't any gold.” He laughed. "And all that we found was a woman's brazier hanging from the end of a broomstick."

For the rest of the flight, Frederick continued to tell me about the war.

I asked him about his position on the Jews, and how he felt about the mass extermination. His response was that he was very young, and at that time very proud to be German, and that sometimes young people make wrong decisions, which later on in life come back to haunt them.

Just before the plane landed, he gave me a sidelong conspirator look.

"I will tell you something else.” He leaned in closer. "Hitler didn't die during the war."

"What are you saying?"

"The body they found was not his body, but one of his bodyguards.” Frederick enlightened. "He lived out the rest of his life as a yeoman farmer in a small town right beneath the very nose of the authorities.”

"How is that possible?"

"Everyone believed him dead.” Frederick returned. "So no one really pursued or questioned his existence."

"How do you know that?” I asked almost incredulously. Frederick only smiled at me and shook his head.

"Some things are better left unsaid."

Dead or Alive?

The Strange Death of Adolph Hitler, 1943 by paul.malon
The Strange Death of Adolph Hitler, 1943 by paul.malon | Source

Conspiracy Theories

I not sure if Mr. Engel had been pulling my leg or not about Furer's existence after the war, but there has been a recent approach about a Hitler and Evan Braun supposedly surviving the war, and living to a very old age in South America and Indonesia ...

My Perspective

Nearly seventy years have passed since the incredible atrocities of World War II. Yet in this day and age, there are very few people living today who remember the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, or the atomic destruction upon Hiroshima. Most of us had relied on hand me down stories, school textbooks, internet and television documentaries to educate the newer generations about a time when the great Axis of Evil tore the world apart.

As a babe born during the freedom-loving revolution of the sixties, I too am one of the many who've read about the horrible deeds committed against humanity during that climatic time. Though I was not alive during these important annals of our world's history, I've tried to keep an open mind while examining the entire spectrum with an objective train of thought rather than feeling subjective to something that I've never actually experienced.

The near extermination of the Jews was an inhumane injustice spearheaded by an evil leader. No one can deny this fact. Even still, as a non-biased outsider, I believe the world may pass judgment on a misguided collaboration, but to scrutinize an individual for the brutality of the collective whole is unjust if we do not examine the reasoning behind each individual in question. At one time or another, every one of us has made a mistake of some sort, and some even more than others might deem. However, I believe that one man's mistake is another man's folly once he passes judgment when he knows nothing about that man's heart.

In light of Friedrich Engel's guilt, I for one could not pass judgment on the man. I met him as a stranger, and found him altogether pleasant, composed, and believe it or not, quite humble. Based on what the gentleman discreetly shared with me, I would like to say that he is not guilty of mass murder; at least not in the physical sense. However, given the fact that he was the commanding SS officer in Genoa at that time, whether he knew of the murderous atrocity or not, guilt must fall upon somebody's shoulders, and, unfortunately, Engel was the highest level of authority associated with that area at that time, and as tried, the German courts found the man guilty.

Afterward Thoughts

We all know the old saying "War is Hell,” and we also know that there are always good and bad soldiers caught up in strife. I honestly believe that Friedrich Engel was a good man caught up in a bad situation completely out of his control, and he like so many other Germans were puppets in a Hellish theatre orchestrated by an evil puppet master who used every means to control and dictate the fate of a misguided country.

To those of you, who read about my personal experience with a German Nazi, do not think for one moment that I do not sympathize with the tragedy of the Jewish community. What happened to these people was unspeakable, and in my opinion unforgivable. Every one of us must stand amidst judgment once we are finished with this world. Not until many years later did I find out about the death of Friedrich Engel. He died in 2006 while under trial for a crime he may or may not have committed. By now, the Supreme Being, the omnipotent creator has passed his judgment, and that word is final.

Did You Find This Hub Interesting?

4.5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of "Encounter with a Nazi: The Butcher of Genoa"

German Interview with Engel

© 2012 ziyena

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 3 years ago from Southern Colorado

    Earl,

    You have a good point, but I do not doubt for a minute that this man I encountered was anyone other than Friedrich Engel. Not only did he have a very distinct face; he mentioned to me he had already been tried for war crimes, and which had been inconclusive, and he had been let go. At that time, this was certainly true. Later on, he did go back to trial and was finally convicted. The key to all that he told me is that he had mentioned ... "they called me the Butcher of Genoa" and this has always stayed with me. What American would know who the Butcher of Genoa was other than a War World II veteran who served in the Italian theater during the war? The only thing about my encounter which I did doubt was the story about Hitler. Indeed, I think he was having a time with me. I sense your doubt in my story, and you have every right to doubt because you do not know me. I walk a very different path, and spiritually I know our encounter was meant to be, and with good reason. Thanks for your comment and the time you took to read my personal story. Z

  • Earl Noah Bernsby profile image

    Earl Noah Bernsby 3 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    I'm surprised that a Nazi war criminal would be so forthcoming about his past with a complete stranger, while traveling through American airspace? That, and the fact that he tried to convince you that Hitler lived out his days as a yeoman farmer, makes me wonder if it was really just some guy having a go at you. (Some people have a sick sense of humor, after all, and like to take advantage of those with trusting natures!)

  • ketage profile image

    ketage 3 years ago from Croatia

    Truly horrific times, and so many conspiracy theories abound relating to Hitlers death, I have read many theorists say that he survived. although I personally feel that is just a story that people made up to keep the bogeyman alive.

    On the other hand I have no real proof to backup what I can only call a gut feeling , or maybe just that the thought of someone who was responsible for so many lives being lost, living his life in peace is something I do not want to accept.

  • profile image

    Alexandr 4 years ago

  • profile image

    BekaS1974 4 years ago

  • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

    wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

    My pastor's wife's family were in concentration camps in ww2. Most of her family died and the one's who survived were mentally damaged for life. I am sickened and somewhat frieghtened when I realize what evil people are capable of, under certain circumstances.

    It's amazing how we as people are capable of overlooking great evil and are so vulnerable to deception.

  • gail641 profile image

    Gail Louise Stevenson 4 years ago from Mason City

    Very interesting true story of meeting the man on the airplane. War is hell. What Hitler did was terrible. I'm glad that Hitler lost the war. I voted up.

  • vox vocis profile image

    Jasmine 4 years ago

    Interesting hub. However, Engel's story didn't touch my heart. I'm wondering how is it that the whole German people followed a man who was full of hate and ready to kill so many people - not just Jews, but also anyone who wasn't on his side. It was a matter of choice.

    I heard an interesting story about a nazi officer who watched long rows of people waiting to be killed in extermination camps. He talked to a priest and said how sorry he was for these people, and wondered what he could have done to help them or ease their pain. He wondered what he could have done to deserve grace is God's eyes. The priest answered he should have got undressed (like those people) and take his place in one of the rows. He was sorry, yes, but not that sorry to share their destiny.

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 4 years ago from Southern Colorado

    shiningirisheyes

    Thank you for your indepth input. This was a very tough hub to write because I had to be very sensitive to every point of view. Meeting Friedrich Engel helped me to understand the meaning of allowing forgiveness and the need for a greater humanity. The reason I wrote this article was to allow people to step into my shoes and experience the moment. I would ask all those who read my hub this question. What would you have done? Would your reaction to a former Nazi SS officer have been different than mine? I feel that this moment in my life was just another spiritual lesson for me ... I believe we all are tested throughout our life experience, and we will all be held accountable for the choices that we have made. I'm so glad to share my thoughts with you. Thank you for the follow. God Bless

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 4 years ago from Southern Colorado

    ....................................................

  • shiningirisheyes profile image

    Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

    I would like to start by thanking you for writing this hub. It is an example of our freedom that we are able to give opinions such as yours and mine. I owe that freedom to brave WWII men such as my Dad. Although your hub is extremely interesting and I am voting it up, I do have to give my opinion, although it may not be a popular one.

    The greatest man I ever knew was my Dad. He was a WWII vet along with many of his lifelong comrades who witnessed many attrosities committed by the infamous "SS". I agree with the comment posted here by Michele Travis. This man may have seemed quite personable and, yes, we do tend to mellow in our old age, but it still does not excuse him for the blood he has on his hands. Whether he personally committed the acts or instructed others to do so, he is guilty. I have read up on this man and my Dad spoke of him. I believe what I have been told and have read. He took advantage of dreadful opportunities when no one was pressuring him to do so. The fact that he had the opportunity to live such a long life, and judging by the picture, a good one, doesn't seem fair. But that is for higher powers to decide. He has not only faced judgement for those Jews, Italians, Poles and some of his own race, he also must pay penance for the countless number of loved ones affected by the loss of so many young boys who gave up their lives in order to stop his type of mentality. Had the war gone a different way, I doubt very much you would have had the freedom of that airline trip and I certainly don't think he would have been sitting next to you as your cabin mate. Yes, war is hell and he participated in ensuring that.

    Again - fantastic hub. I will continue to read and follow you. I think you are a wonderful writer and this hub certainly caught my attention. My hat is off to you.

    I voted this up.

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 4 years ago from Southern Colorado

    Thank you Carrie ... :)

  • tapasrecipe profile image

    tapasrecipe 4 years ago from Spanish tapas land

    Awesome hub, made me get goosebumps,no comments more are needed, from me at least.

    Carrie.

  • arafatboni profile image

    arafatboni 5 years ago from Bangladesh

    great.....really awesome

  • Hotshot_peter profile image

    Hotshot_peter 5 years ago from Over yonder tree

    I can't tell you how much i enjoyed reading this article. It helped stir up some old memories. There are so many thoughts running through my head and i can't quite fathom which to jot down.

    There are times when we are faced with impossible choices, in his case it was probably 'obey the fuhrer or your loved ones die'. Personally i don't think i would want to be in his shoes.

    This hub also presents me with a question, if the Nazis had won would he still be the humble man you had met or a proud commander who had done his masters bidding?

  • Perspycacious profile image

    Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

    Our mortal lives are gifts of Heaven. Two things to perhaps speculate on: The Wehrmacht and all German officers (perhaps enlisted, too) had to swear a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler which made any independent actions or refusals subject to death. I speculate that the mass killings of Jews were not just the scapegoating of them, but also the expropriation of their assets to help fund the Third Reich and its expansion. America is not blameless for its sitting back and watching the de facto imprisonment of loyal Japanese-Americans. We might ponder what our government might do in our day to similarly loyal Chinese-Americans or others, if we felt threatened by a country for which they only hold an ancient heritage, as the Japanese-Americans did.

  • Amethystraven profile image

    Amethystraven 5 years ago from California

    This is a very interesting hub. While some soldiers did not believe the same way Hitler believed, they had to carry out his orders because their own families were in jeopardy and threatened if they didn't. Some did believe in what Hitler was doing, and like you said they will deal with the creator when their day comes. Genocide is atrocious no matter where it is committed.

  • breathe2travel profile image

    breathe2travel 5 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

    Voted interesting.

  • Perspycacious profile image

    Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

    We must recall the Mao in China was responsible for hypocrisy and for the deaths of millions and the persecutions of many, many more than that. Thank you for this recounting of your unusual personal experience.

  • karmicfilly profile image

    karmicfilly 5 years ago from Franklin, TN

    Really interesting hub I must say. As humans we all face experiences where we can stand up and do what's right or go along with the masses. He just was a weak man who could not and did not stand up for what was right. Unfortunately when following a sociopath you are convinced you are doing the right thing. Glad you could step back and get enough perspective on the human you were sitting with. Monsters are everywhere if we look but underneath they were once human. Not sure which one he was and may never know.

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 5 years ago from Southern Colorado

    Thank you Dex

    I'm very honored with such a comment. I did put my heart into this one and as you can see and read I had my reasons :)

    God Bless

    Z

  • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

    Dexter Yarbrough 5 years ago from United States

    Hi Ziyena! What a fascinating story and chance to meet someone from that era. Thank you so much for sharing this. Not many people have an opportunity to meet a man like this and you handled it very well. What also strikes me as phenomenal is your ability to see him as a human being. Some people aren't able to share a perspective in this way. Wow. This has to be one of the best hubs I have read this year. Voted up, up and away!

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 5 years ago from Southern Colorado

    Yes, now after all these years I do see it as amazing that I met this man. I had no idea who the Butcher of Genoa really was until I saw a report of his death on CNN, and then it hit me that "Frederick" was the same "Friedrich" alias "The Butcher of Genoa" as he had claimed. I believe that fate brought us together for a reason. Obviously so that I could write this story and spread a message about acceptance, understanding and perhaps some level of forgiveness.

    Thanks for your wonderful comment. :)

    Z

  • Lenzy profile image

    Lenzy 5 years ago from Arlington, Texas

    Absolutely amazing hub. First of all it was amazing that you had the ability to meet the man and ask the questions you did. It was also amazing that you were able to write the article and look at both perspectives. I imagine that a retrospective look at his life portrays both the culpability and horror of his earlier life and hopefully the sorrow and understanding of his later life. This was a very well written hub. Lenzy

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 5 years ago from Southern Colorado

    Michele ... your opinion was full of passion and very true. :)

  • Michele Travis profile image

    Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

    Ziyena you are correct, this is going on all over the world, and has been happening since time began. No one has been perfect. Every country has harmed another. All you wrote is true, and that is sad. Yes, the entire world is filled with atrocity right now. Thank you allowing me to voice my opinion.

    God Bless you

    Michele

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 5 years ago from Southern Colorado

    Thank you for your input. I want to make sure that you understand that I am not trying to glorify Friedrich Engel. He himself admitted to me that he had regrets, we all do. When I wrote this Hub I was looking at a much bigger picture about the lessons we learn in life ... the entire world is and has been full of atrocity. The Jews are not the only group of people who have suffered from evil acts. Here in the U.S. there was an attempt to annihlate the Native American people, a systematic extermination that failed, Thank God. Back in the 1800's a Colonel Chivington was in charge of a unit which massacred an entire camp at Sand Creek here in Colorado. Women were raped, children's skulls were crushed with the butts of rifles and their brains scattered about. In the present day and time, one of our own soldiers supposedly 'lost it' amd went rogue and murdered near 18 Afghani people, mostly children. In Darfur, there is an unimaginable extermination going on now as we speak. I will say it again ... War is Hell, it's another dimension that makes good people test their humanity when given power. Friedrich Engel never said he was innocent. He emphatic when he told me that he did not kill those partisans. Perhaps he did carry out an order via Hitler, but what choice did he have? Comman Sense reminds me that he wasn't in any position to disobey a monster such as Hitler. In any event, the man is dead and as I've stated before he now faces his maker who ultimately has the final word.

    God Bless

    Z

  • Michele Travis profile image

    Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

    Very interesting hub. Every Nazi war criminal does not feel guilty, or that it was 'his' fault. However, it was. After all, did the people who were in the concentration camps drive themselves there? Did they walk into the gas chambers willingly? Did mothers and fathers leave their children for no reason? NO. My great grandfather died because one of those 'I am innocent' men. They were not innocent. They did see people die. They saw children die. They did not close their eyes. They saw people starve. They shaved women's hair, then raped them. If anyone cried or disturbed them a scull could be crushed for fun. Do not let anyone fool you. A man can fool himself, which many of them do. But, do not let him fool you. He knew what he was doing and he did it. My grandmother was able to leave France right before Hitler's Army invaded it. My grandfather did not make it out alive. My family has taught me about it. I know what Hitler and his followers did. Look at the museum, read the words at the museum, look at the shoes of the children. Look at the reality! Not just his denial of reality. Life is not cheap, nor is death. Think about the sorrow of the people whose mother's, father's or loved ones had been killed. This man you spoke to might be 'OK' but he is not. What he thinks he has done is different from what he has truly done. He is a monster.

  • Sarah Headrick profile image

    Sarah Headrick 5 years ago from Houston, TX

    What a fascinating story. I admire your willingness to withhold judgment and to get to know him as a human being. Thank you for sharing your experience and insights.

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

    Many seniors love to talk of their life- even if it has some notorious aspects to it. So there's no prob with the man telling you what he did or didn't do. Airplanes are one of the best places to meet very interesting people, no doubt about it. As far as Hitler goes, he was the kind of world historic personage who wouldn't have wanted to outlive the defeat of his over riding passion in life, Germany. To balance that out though, there was a Hitler double discovered outside the bunker- but no Eva was with the corpse. And some highly placed people have let "leak" the fact that indeed he and Eva escaped. Personally, if I had to bet- the bunker end would be it. In any case, one more mystery to add to so many more from that war and era. Intriguing hub ziyena.

  • ata1515 profile image

    ata1515 5 years ago from Buffalo, New York.

    Awesome story. That was truly a chance in a lifetime to meet a living piece of history. The Holocaust was a horrible event, but to place the blame on one man's shoulders does not do the victims justice. As people we want someone to pay for a crime, but sometimes you cannot properly apportion blame.

    Voted up and sharing!

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 5 years ago from Southern Colorado

    Well stated!

    It's so unfortunate that we treat each other so.

    Z

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 5 years ago from Southern Colorado

    You have no idea how hard it was to face him and ask him about the jews ... but I'm so glad I did because now I have a better understanding.

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 5 years ago from Southern Colorado

    I agree ... he was a fascinating man. Although, I do not approve of the evil regime he served.

  • ziyena profile image
    Author

    ziyena 5 years ago from Southern Colorado

    Thanks for keeping an open mind! :)

  • charmike4 profile image

    Michael Kromwyk 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

    Thank you so much for sharing your story on hubpages ziyena. There is no excuse for anyone involved in the Holocaust or who murdered innocents (a visit to the Imperial War Museum in London puts this into perspective), however it is extraordinary to be in a position to meet a person that was there and saw what was happening and maybe was also involved. Thanks for taking the time to research his story and to present it here for us to read & contemplate. Cheers Michael

  • JKenny profile image

    James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

    Wow! What a fascinating hub, and what a fascinating man Frederick was. I think you're right about not being able to judge the man, because most of us simply weren't around at that time, we have no idea what it was like for a German serving under such an evil man.

    I found what he said about Hitler equally fascinating, I've always had an inkling that Hitler faked his suicide and fled elsewhere. Great work Ziyena. Voted up and shared.

  • UnnamedHarald profile image

    David Hunt 5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

    What a rare opportunity. Actually, it seems brave of you to ask the questions you did-- not that you were in danger or anything. It's just that you took the opportunity to ask some uncomfortable questions. Voted up and interesting. I do believe, however, that he took an opportunity to sew doubt in your mind about Hitler surviving the war.

  • diogenes profile image

    diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

    Extraordiary story. Of course, we always think we are right as do other races who emrge victors from time to time. The Holacaust still baffles me and although there is too much evidence for it to be a vast hoax, I still can't grap the extent of the inhumanity. Yet others have killed more people, Stalin did, for example. It makes our lives seem so cheap.

    Bob

Click to Rate This Article