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Rome, Argentina refuse burial of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke

Italy Obit Priebke_Leff.jpg

June 18, 2007 - FILE photo of former Nazi officer, Erich Priebke (then 93,) leaving his lawyer's office, in Rome. Priebke, an ex SS captain sentenced to life for the 1944's Ardeatine caves massacre in Italy, died at 100 Friday. Argentine and Roman authorities have refused to allow his burial due to his involvement in war crimes.AP

The Argentine government is refusing to allow convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke to be buried on its soil, and Italian authorities say he will not have a church funeral or burial in Rome either.   

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman gave an order not to accept the return of Priebke’s body, Argentine authorities said Friday, according to a report by the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Timerman made the statement via Twitter.

Priebke died Friday in Rome at 100 years old. He was extradited to Italy from Argentina in 1995 and put on trial for his role in the 1944 massacre of 335 civilians by Nazi forces at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome. The massacre was carried out in retaliation for an attack by resistance fighters that killed 33 members of a Nazi military police unit a day earlier.

Priebke admitted shooting two people and rounding up victims, but insisted he was only following orders. He was convicted for his part in the war crimes and served a life sentence under house arrest at the Roman home of his lawyer, Paolo Giachini.

The former SS captain requested he be buried next to his wife in Bariloche, the Argentine town where he lived after escaping Europe in 1948, Giachini said.

"Argentines will not accept this kind of affront to human dignity," Argentine authorities said on Twitter, according to the DPA report.

Meanwhile, Rome's mayor, its police chief, and the pope's right-hand man have unanimously refused to grant Priebke a church funeral or burial in the city where he was involved in one of the worst massacres in German-occupied Italy.

Rome's archdiocese made it official Monday, saying it had told Giachini to have the funeral at home, but that Giachini refused. He has insisted on a private church Mass. Pope Francis' vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, has prohibited any Rome church from allowing it.

"The dignity with which he withstood his persecution made him an example of courage, coherence and loyalty," Giachini said.

Priebke long felt like he had been scapegoated, since other Germans who had participated in the massacre weren't convicted, another lawyer, Carlo Taormina, told The Associated Press.

Priebke had escaped in 1946 from a British prison camp in Rimini, a resort town on Italy's Adriatic coast, and had lived in Argentina for nearly 50 years before a U.S. television program reported that he was living freely in Argentina.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.