Nazi criminal Erich Priebke attracted many conflicts, rage and insults during his lifetime, but even now, four days after his passing at the age of 100, he still enrages his haters from the grave.
The latest drama surrounding Priebke, a former SS officer convicted of participating in the massacre of 335 citizens, including dozens of Jews, in Italy during World War II, is related to his burial. After the Catholic Church, the city of Rome, his adopted homeland Argentina and even his German hometown all refused to bury him, Priebke's son caused a scene when he suggesting on Tuesday that his father should be buried in Israel.
"Where should he be buried? To me also Israel would be good," said son Jorge Priebke to Italian news agency ANSA from his home in Bariloche, Argentina, and made headlines in Italy. "So that they're happy," he said, without being specific as to who he means by "they", although it is apparently meant to describe those who seek to prevent any honorable ceremony for the Nazi criminal.
Jorge Priebke said that the ongoing refusal by institutions and countries to bury his father is "unfair," claiming that "they" should focus on events that take place in the Middle East, Syria or Iran rather than "picking up on someone (for things happened) during war time, more than 60 years ago."
Priebke had been living under house arrest in Rome after being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1998 for the killings of 335 civilians in the Ardeatine Caves near Rome in March 1944. At the time, Priebke was in charge of SS troops who executed the 335 in retaliation for the killings of 33 German soldiers by a partisan group. After the war Priebke escaped to Argentina but was deported to Italy after being interviewed on US television and admitting his role in the massacre, which he said had been conducted against "terrorists."
The house arrest conditions in which Priebke spent his last years raised the ire of Jewish groups in Italy. Three years ago they protested the court's decision to allow the Nazi criminal to go shopping and attend church services. Though Priebke was sentenced to life, this was commuted to full house arrest due to his medical condition.
The massacre in which Priebke took part was carried out after the Nazis decided to execute 10 Italians for every one of the 33 Nazi soldiers that were killed. They gathered political prisoners from jails, criminals and 75 Jews, and shot them in a cave outside Rome. Priebke confessed to shooting two partisans and aiding in the capture of many others. However, he continually stressed that he simply followed orders from above.
Priebke's death raised a public debate in Italy and the Christian world regarding the manner in which the convicted war criminal and Holocaust denier should be laid to rest. The authorities in Rome, where he resided in recent years, banned honoring his memory in any form within city limits. Local police chief announced that the capital will prevent any ceremony honoring him, and the mayor made similar remarks.
Rome's Jewish community expressed much appreciation for the decision: "Any demonstration of honor – civil or religious – would be an intolerable affront to the memory of those who fell in the fight for freedom of Nazism and fascism," said the head of Italy's Jewish communities, Renzo Gattegna.
Argentina announced during the weekend that it would not agree to receive Priebke's body and allow its burial on Argentine soil, and the hopes of Priebke's lawyer to have him buried in his German hometown have apparently crushed as well.
His attorney said that Priebke should be buried in his homeland, which he "really loved"; however his hometown of Hennigsdorf, north of Berlin, stated they would not concede to do so.
According to the local authority, only residents may be buried in the community. Special cases allow the burial of relatives, however no member of the Priebke family is buried at the local cemetery, therefore Priebke does not have the right to be buried there.