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German war criminal Priebke dies in Rome, aged 100

His lawyer says he left human, political testament interview

11 October, 16:56
German war criminal Priebke dies in Rome, aged 100 (ANSA) - Rome, October 11 - Former SS officer and war criminal Erich Priebke died at his Rome home aged 100 Friday.

Priebke was serving a life sentence for his part in a 1944 reprisal at a quarry known as the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome that killed 335 men and boys including 75 Jews.

The atrocity, ordered by Hitler a day after 33 SS policemen from the northern Italian German-speaking city of Bolzano were killed by a partisan bomb in Rome, was one of the worst war crimes in Italy in the Second World War. Priebke, found by an ABC journalist enjoying retirement after openly working as a teacher in Argentina in 1994 and extradited to Italy the following year, was sentenced to jail in 1998 but released to house arrest because of health reasons in 2003. "The victims of the Ardeatine Caves are angels and they will take care of him for eternity," said Riccardo Pacifici, the head of Rome's Jewish community. "Priebke will brought to account by them in the other world". Rome's Jewish community protested when Priebke got a day job as a translator in 2007 and when he had his 100th birthday party in July.

The legal process that led to his house arrest was a long and complicated one, which culminated with Rome's Military Appeals Court in March 1998 handing down a life sentence to Priebke together with another former SS Officer, Karl Hass, for the March 24 1944 massacre.

The sentence came after years of trials, which started after Italian authorities requested the man's extradition from Argentina in 1995, the same year he was brought to Italy and sent to the Forte Boccea jail in Rome.

While an initial military court in 1996 had deemed the accusations of him having partaken in violence and homicide against Italian citizens unpursuable due to the statute of limitations having expired, which led to the man's release, Priebke was re-arrested only hours after leaving the jail as a result of a German extradition request. That same year, the Italian Court of Cassation annulled the decision made by the military tribunal and called for a new trial, which across various levels of jurisprudence and civil and military courts led to his being handed a life sentence in 1998.

Priebke's lawyer Paolo Giachini said on Friday the deceased had also left him a video and written interview which is his "human and political testament."