Nazi Priebke’s funeral not welcome in Rome or Argentina

ROME (JTA) – The funeral for convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke will likely be held  the day before Rome marks the 70th anniversary of the Nazi deportation of more than 1,000 Roman Jews to Auschwitz.

But officials and news reports Sunday said it was not yet clear where Tuesday’s service would take place or where his body would be buried.

Priebke died Friday at 100 in Rome, where he had served 15 years of a life sentence for his involvement in one of Italy’s worst World War II Nazi atrocities — the March 1944 massacre of 335 men and boys, including about 75 Jews, in the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome.

Since his death, officials in Rome and the Vatican, as well as in Argentina, where Priebke had fled after the war and from where he had been extradited to Italy in 1995, made clear that memorial services for Priebke were not welcome.

According to Priebke’s lawyer, Paolo Giachini, Priebke had wanted to be buried next to his wife in Argentina. But in barring the request, the Argentine Foreign Ministry said in a Twitter post that Foreign Minister Hector Timerman had “given the order not to accept the slightest move to allow the return of the body of Nazi criminal Erich Priebke to our country.”

In Rome, meanwhile, the mayor and police chief said they would not allow any form of “solemn and public” funeral, and did not want Priebke to be buried in a tomb in Rome that could become a place of pilgrimage for neo-fascists and neo-Nazis.

“Rome is an anti-fascist city that suffered dramatically,” said Mayor Ignazio Marino. “Just in the days in which we mark the 70th anniversary of the roundup in the ghetto, Rome cannot become the place of demonstrations in favor of those who inflicted so much suffering on people who live in this city.”

Shortly after Priebke’s death, graffiti reading “Honor to Priebke” was scrawled on a wall near the apartment where he had been serving his sentence under house arrest.

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Rome also was quoted by the news agency ANSA as saying that funeral rites for Priebke “were not foreseen” in a Roman church. Giachini told Italia media on Sunday, however, that the funeral would take place Tuesday, probably in Rome, in a private service.

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