Italians protest relocation of jailed former SS officer

ROME, Dec. 28 (JTA) — Erich Priebke’s new neighbors are not happy with the Christmas present given to the former SS captain. On the orders of a military appeals court, Priebke, who was convicted in July of taking part in the 1944 massacre of 335 people, was moved Dec. 23 from a military hospital into a Rome apartment to serve out the remaining three months of his sentence. Neighbors from the apartment building and surrounding neighborhood, including a number of Jews, have been protesting his presence. “The protest is unceasing,” Italian television said over the weekend. Protesters carried placards outside the building and stretched banners from windows with slogans such as “Merry Christmas, Murderer,” “No One Wants You,” and “Priebke, Get Out of Our House.” Graffiti scrawled on the wall read “335 Times No.” Priebke, 84, was moved into the apartment on a private street in a residential area because of worsening health. The apartment was put at Priebke’s disposal by a group called Man and Freedom, which has called him a political prisoner. Heavy security was stationed nearby, and bars were installed on the apartment windows. Tullia Zevi, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, called the decision to move Priebke “incredible.” Priebke was sentenced last summer by a military court to five years in prison for taking part in the Ardeatine Caves massacre, 75 of whose 335 victims were Jews. The court, however, reduced his sentence because of the time he had spent in jail since his extradition from Argentina in 1994.

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