Nazi's Funeral Held by Catholic Splinter Group
(ROME) -- Protesters jeered "murderer" Tuesday as the body of a notorious Nazi was taken to a church for a funeral outside Rome that had been banned by the Catholic Church. The body of former SS officer Erich Priebke was to be cremated, but it is unclear where his ashes will go. So far, no country has said it was willing to accept his remains.
Priebke died Friday at the age of 100 while serving the last 17 years of a lifetime prison sentence under house arrest in Rome.
Priebke was reviled in Italy for carrying out the massacre of 335 Italian civilians, including 57 Jews, in 1944 at the Ardeatine Caves in Rome. The slaughter was in retaliation for the killing of 33 German soldiers by resistance forces in the center of Rome during World War II.
The funeral came on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Italy on Wednesday. This year, the date will mark the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Roman Jews in 1943, many of whom died in Nazi concentration camps.
The Rome Vicariate, which overseas churches in the city and province, promptly announced in a statement soon after Priebke's death that no public funeral would be granted to him in the city or outskirts of Rome. Officials cited canon law which states that a funeral may be denied to "manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful."
But a splinter group of Catholic priests called the Society of St. Pius X, who object to the Vatican's outreach to Jews and other reforms, agreed to hold Priebke's funeral at the chapel of their institute at Albano Laziale.
As the hearse bringing the coffin arrived outside the society's church, people in the crowd slammed their fists and umbrellas on the car and shouted.
Priebke was living openly after the war in Argentina until ABC News’ Sam Donaldson tracked him down on the street of the town of Bariloche in 1994 and asked him about the massacre at the Ardeatine Caves.
Priebke's casual admittance to taking part in the slaughter and dismissal of his responsibilities caused shock and an indignant response around the world. He was extradited to Italy soon afterwards.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1998 by an Italian military court, but allowed to serve the last 17 years under house arrest.
Priebke continues to incite anger and protests even in death. Anti and pro-Priebke graffiti has appeared in Rome.
The tenor rose when his lawyer released a video and a seven page written message Priebke had left as "testament" in which he denied the Holocaust and the Nazi gas chambers and again showed no remorse for his actions.
While the funeral has been settled, the internment of his ashes is not.
Argentina, his home for 50 years after the war, has said they do not want him. His birthplace outside of Berlin, Hennigsdord, say there is no room for him in the cemetery. Rome's Mayor Ignazio Marino said it would be an offense to Romans if he were buried in a Roman cemetery.
Some have suggested he could be buried at the German military cemetery in Pomezia, south of Rome, but the town's mayor quickly ruled this out.
"The Pomezia German cemetery is only for Germans who died in the war. Criminals from the Nazi regime are an indelible mark of our history, and those who committed such crimes must be tried and then cancelled from our collective memory. Pomezia will never accept any of them," the mayor said.
Priebke's son, Jorge, who still lives in Argentina, is quoted in the Italian media saying what happened to his father "an injustice" and said that "the trial against my father was all invented by the Jews." He will not attend the funeral wherever they take place. "Apart from the fact that I have health problems, we do not have the money for a ticket. I receive a minimum pension in Argentina," he said.
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