Controversy in Rome over Priebke funeral

Priebke's final testament reveals no remorse for his Nazi past

The controversy continues over the funeral arrangements for Erich Priebke, the former SS officer who died in Rome aged 100 on 11 October.

The Vicariate of Rome says that it "does not foresee" a public funeral in a church in Rome for Priebke, who was sentenced to jail for life in 1998 for his role in the 1944 Fosse Ardeatine massacre in Rome in which the Nazis killed 335 people. But because of his age he was serving his sentence under house arrest in the city's Balduina district.

The capital's mayor Ignazio Marino has vetoed a public burial of Priebke in Rome, a city Marino describes as "profoundly anti-fascist." Rome wants to avoid the prospect of Priebke being buried in a tomb in the city that could become a place of pilgrimage for neo-fascists and neo-Nazis.

Also ruling out a funeral is Argentina where Priebke lived for decades following the war, until he was tracked down in 1994. Priebke's laywer Paolo Giachini said that his client had originally expressed the wish to be buried next to his wife in Argentina. The Argentine foreign affairs minister Hector Timerman tweeted that "We will reject every procedure that might allow the entry of the body of the criminal Priebke" because it would be "an affront to human dignity."

Giachini says that a private "church funeral" for Priebke would take place on Tuesday afternoon, 15 October. "To my knowledge, the Curia has not denied a funeral for Priebke but I'm ready to celebrate [the funeral] in the street if this were to happen” said Giachini.

British world war two veteran and longterm Italian resident Harry Shindler is quoted in La Repubblica newspaper as saying that Priebke should be buried at the German cemetery in Pomezia, where he would be "in the company of his peers" who "took part in several massacres in Italy, such as in Marzabotto.” Located 30 km south of Rome, the cemetery contains the remains of 27,443 German soldiers, including 3,770 with no name. But the mayor of Pomezia has already said “no”.

The 93-year old Shindler who participated in the Allied landings at Anzio and the liberation of Rome in 1944, says: ''The harm that this [person] has done – he says referring to Priebke – to so many people, to the whole world, remains forever. But one must realise that his is the true face of fascism and Nazism. He shot people with their hands tied behind their backs, and that is the action of a coward."

The lawyer Giachini has revealed contents of Priebke's last interview conducted in Italian by an unknown interviewee prior to Priebke's 100th birthday in July. In this seven-page “final legacy”, which serves as a "human and political testament” according to Giachini, Priebke refused to repudiate his Nazi past, defended Adolf Hitler, denied the Holocaust and dismissed the Nuremburg trials as “a farce.”

See related article on the Ardentine massacre

Photo 1. Priebke and his lawyer Paolo Giachini

Photo 2. Priebke in the SS

Photo 3. Soldiers outside Priebke's home in Boccea, 14 October 2013.