Jews in Rome Protest Decision to Release Former Nazi War Criminal

Jewish demonstrators, led by Rome’s Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff, protested vigorously yesterday against the decision by a military tribunal here to release a Nazi war criminal serving a life sentence for ordering the massacre of 335 civilian hostages in March, 1944 in reprisal for an attach by partisans on an 88 squad. About 250 demonstrators marched to the Argentine Caves on the southern outskirts of the city, where the massacre took place 33 years ago. Rome’s Major, Carlo Gulilo Argan supported the demonstrators.

Later they were joined by several hundred more protestors in a march to the military hospital where former SS Col. Herbert Kappler, 69, is said to be suffering with terminal cancer. Kappler, who has served 29 years of his life term, had his sentence suspended temporarily last March after West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt interceded on his behalf. The Tribunal’s decision to release him was attributed by the protestors to pressure from West Germany one of Italy’s major creditors.

While Rabbi Toaff spoke to the duty officer at the military hospital, about 50 young demonstrators broke through the gates. But they were stopped by police. Some demonstrators said they would remain at the hospital compound through the night to make sure that Kappler was not in any of the ambulances leaving it.

Sources close to Kappler’s lawyer said the ex-Nazi wished to return to West Germany. The Tribunal ordered his release on grounds that he had passed the 28-year minimum before parole can be considered, that he had a good conduct record in prison and that he was seriously ill.

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