Family of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke demands body back

The family of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke demanded the return of his body on Thursday after his funeral in a Rome suburb was disrupted by protesters and his coffin taken away by Italian authorities.

Ex-SS officer's body seized at Tuesday funeral amid clashes between neo-Nazis, residents

Former Nazi officer Erich Priebke, who admitted to having participated in the 1944 massacre of 335 civilians in Rome, was extradited to Italy from Argentina in 1995 to face a war crimes trial. Priebke, seen here leaving Argentina, died last week at the age of 100. His family and lawyer have been clashing with Italian authorities over where to hold Pribeke's funeral.

The family of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke demanded the return of his body on Thursday after his funeral was disrupted by protesters and his coffin taken away by Italian authorities.

The former SS officer died last week at the age of 100 in Rome, where he spent the end of his life under house arrest for commanding troops who killed 335 civilians in 1944, one of Italy's worst wartime massacres.

He never apologized for his crimes.

Authorities moved his coffin to a military airport near Rome late on Tuesday after clashes between neo-Nazis and residents of Albano Laziale, the Rome suburb where the funeral was to have taken place.

Funeral was to be at Catholic Society of Saint Pius X

Angry residents objected to the ceremony being held in the town, which is 20 km from the caves on the outskirts of Rome where the massacre was carried out in reprisal for a partisan attack that killed 33 German troops in the city.

Tell us where the body of Erich Priebke is. His children have asked me to get it back.- Paolo Giachini, lawyer for Erich Priebke's family

"There was an abduction of the body by about 30 people, police or intelligence services, and they beat up four people who were holding a vigil," Priebke family lawyer Paolo Giachini said.

"Tell us where the body of Erich Priebke is. His children have asked me to get it back."

Giachini said Priebke's family would seek redress over the removal of his body and for "acts of violence" against those keeping vigil at the headquarters in Albano Laziale of the renegade right-wing Catholic Society of Saint Pius X, which had offered to hold the funeral.

Giachini said he did not know if Priebke's body was still at the Pratica di Mare airport.

We didn't steal body, police say

A Rome police spokesman said the body had to be moved because of concerns about public order.

"The police did their duty," Maurizio Scandale said. "We took it and moved it somewhere else. We did not steal it."

On Thursday, Rome prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro signed an order forbidding Priebke's remains to be buried in the city or province of Rome, "in order to avert the highly probable presence of opposing factions at the place of burial".

Argentina, where Priebke escaped after the war, refused to allow his body to return to be buried next to his wife. His hometown in Germany has also resisted providing a grave, fearing it could become a neo-Nazi pilgrimage site.

Giachini's office on Thursday released a video statement by Priebke before his death, in which he defended his role in the 1944 massacre.

"It was a terrible thing for us to have to do this," Priebke said in Italian. "It was not possible [to refuse] ... this was an order from Hitler." 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.