Rome And Church Officials Block Nazi War Criminal’s Burial

By Bill Chappell NPR

The late Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke, infamous for his role in crimes that included a massacre in Italy, is proving to be difficult to bury, after church and government officials in Rome blocked his funeral there.

Authorities in Germany and Argentina have also rejected the idea of becoming the final resting place for the former SS captain, who died Friday at 100.

Priebke died under house arrest while serving a life sentence “for his part in a 1944 reprisal at a quarry known as the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome that killed 335 men and boys including 75 Jews,” reports Italy’s Gazzetta Del Sud. “The atrocity, ordered by Hitler a day after 33 SS policemen from the northern Italian German-speaking city of Bolzano were killed by a partisan bomb in Rome, was one of the worst war crimes in Italy in the Second World War.”

The former Nazi never showed repentance for his crimes, his critics say. During his trial, Priebke maintained that he had only been following orders. He also said the Germans had killed “terrorists.”

For decades after World War II, Priebke lived in Argentina; he was extradited to Italy in 1995 and convicted of war crimes.

Priebke was called to account after a 1994 TV interview conducted by ABC journalist Sam Donaldson, who “ambushed” the former SS officer in a village near the Andes mountains, as an article in American Journalism Review noted.

At the end of their conversation, Priebke famously told Donaldson, “You are not a gentleman.”

After the war criminal’s death last week, Jewish and Catholic leaders moved to block plans to hold Priebke’s funeral in Rome.

“Rome’s archdiocese made it official Monday,” the AP reports, saying Priebke’s lawyer could hold the funeral in his home “in strict privacy.” The news agency adds that Pope Francis’ vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, forbade any church in Rome from holding the service.

On the day he died, Argentina’s foreign ministry said it wouldn’t allow Priebke to be returned to the country, saying that “Argentines will not accept this kind of affront to human dignity,” the Agence France-Presse reports.

Priebke’s hometown in Germany has cited its policy of only allowing residents to be buried there, the AP says.

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