The Italian Almanac

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Erich Priebke

No Funeral

Civil and religious leaders in Rome have refused to allow a funeral in the capital for Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke, creating uncertainty about where and how the body of the former SS officer, who died at the age of 100 last week, will be laid to rest. Priebke, who never repudiated his Nazi past, was serving a life sentence under house arrest in the Italian capital 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.

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.

Priebke's lawyer Paolo Giachini said late last week that a private funeral, attended only by close friends and family, would be held in a downtown church in Rome. But Roman mayor Ignazio Marino and Catholic church authorities quickly moved to shut down that possibility. Marino announced that "any form of solemn funeral will be denied. To bury Priebke in Rome would be a slap that our city will not receive".

Father Antonio Curcio, who leads Priebke's parish church, the Santa Maria Immacolata di Lourdes, declared, "the Vicariate has said it can't be done in a church". The Jewish Community in Rome threatened to lead street protests if Priebke is permitted a tomb in the Italian capital. "It would be like killing those victims a second time," said Riccardo Pacifici, the Jewish organisation's president.

The Argentinian government has also refused to allow his body to be returned to be buried next to his wife.