Angry protest at Nazi's funeral leaves the body in diplomatic limbo

18.10.2013 15:43

The body of a convicted Nazi murderer
was transferred to an Italian military
airport Wednesday as authorities
across three countries continued to
refuse custody of his remains.
SS captain Erich Priebke died while
serving a life sentence for his part in
the massacre of 335 people in 1944.
Aged 100 and under house arrest at
the time of his death, Priebke fully
admitted his crimes and never
What to do with the body, however,
has become an issue of international
Officials in Rome, Argentina and his
hometown in Germany have rejected
the idea he could be buried there
because of fears his grave could
become a neo-Nazi shrine.
The situation was made more unclear
Wednesday after angry protests at his
funeral by both pro and anti-Nazi
groups meant the service had to be
canceled and his body transported to
the Pratica di Mare military base
outside Rome.
With Italian authorities officially
responsible for Priebke, Rome’s mayor
Ignazio Marino has said he may turn to
Germany for help. However, officials in
Hennigsdorf, the German town where
Priebke was born, have already
rejected the idea he could be buried
Priebke's lawyer Paolo Giachini said
the Italian authorities have left
themselves in an impossible situation
over what is turning out to be a body
that nobody wants.
“They have made a problem which they
cannot now solve,” Giachini told NBC
News through a translator. “I just
wanted to hold a normal funeral and a
normal burial and it would be finished,
but the Italian authorities would not
allow that.”
Massimo Percossi / EPA
The van with Erich Priebke's coffin l
from a building in Albano on Tuesda
route to the military airport.
Giachini had called for a regular Mass
for Priebke, despite authorities saying
the funeral should be held in strict
It appeared no church was prepared
to handle Priebke’s service until a
controversial Catholic fringe group,
the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX),
stepped forward.
The SSPX, which faced controversy
when former Bishop Richard
Williamson publicly denied the
Holocaust, said that every baptized
Christian had the right to a proper
burial “no matter what his sins,”
according to a Reuters report.
Local mayor Nicola Marini tried to ban
the funeral, but Italian media said this
was overruled by the local police chief.
Scores of protesters lined the SSPX
headquarters in Albano Laziale, near
Rome, Tuesday. Riot police struggled
to contain the crowds -- for and
against Priebke -- some of whom
shouted "Executioner! Executioner!"
and kicked the hearse.
Giachini was forced to cancel the
He told NBC News he will have nothing
more to do with the arrangements for
Priebke’s body because of what he
called negligence by the Italian
He said the Italian authorities, having
voiced opposition to Priebke’s funeral
and burial, allowed the violent
protesters to get out of hand.
“The authorities allowed the protesters
to do really, really bad things,” he said.
“Now the body is at a military airport
and it is the problem of the Italian
authorities, not mine.”
While Roman officials are said to be
reaching out to Germany, a
spokeswoman from the German
Foreign Ministry told NBC News they
had no formal request to bury Priebke.
“The body is the responsibility of the
Italian authorities,” the spokesman
said. “We have had contact from Italy
regarding the matter, but there has
been no formal request.”
Asked what Germany’s position was
regarding a potential burial, the
spokeswoman said: “We cannot say
what our position will be before we
have been asked the question.”