PARIS (Aug. 18)
The family of an Italian anti-fascist resistance leader slain during World War II has pressed charges against former SS Capt. Erich Priebke for his murder.
The family of Bruno Buozzi, a celebrated union leader who was shot dead along with 13 other men on June 4, 1944, as the Germans were fleeing Rome, filed the charges with Italy’s civilian court on July 31, his son-in-law said in an interview.
An Italian military tribunal earlier this month found Priebke guilty of involvement in the March 24, 1944 massacre of 335 men and boys, 75 of them Jewish, at the Ardeatine Caves near Rome.
But the court said it could not sentence him because the statute of limitations had run out. His release triggered outrage in Italy and abroad.
Buozzi’s son-in-law, Gilles Martinet, 80, said the new accusations against Priebke were based on statements made by former SS major Karl Hass in an interview in the Italian daily Il Messagiero in June.
According to Martinet, who is a former French ambassador to Italy, Hass told 11 Messagiero that Priebke ordered the murder of Buozzi and 13 other resistance members. They were shot in the back of the head in a clearing near the town of La Storta, about nine miles from Rome, after the truck in which the Nazis were transporting them broke down.
“When a former SS officer declares that (Priebke) ordered the massacre, how could we not take action?” said Martinet, who married one of Buozzi’s daughters in 1938.
“We have asked a civil court for an investigation to ascertain whether Hass’s statements are true,” he said.
If they are, Priebke “cannot take refuge behind the German command,” as he did during his trial when he claimed he would have been shot if he had refused to take part in the Ardeatine Caves slaughter.
Hass is under house arrest in a Rome clinic where he is recovering from injuries suffered when he jumped from a hotel balcony in an attempt to avoid testifying at Priebke’s trial.
Germany has requested Priebke’s extradition and the ex-Nazi is being held in a Rome prison pending Italy’s decision.
Buozzi’s assassination was mentioned during Priebke’s trial but no evidence was produced. Buozzi, a Socialist member of the Italian parliament, fled to France in 1926 to help organize the resistance in exile before returning to Italy.