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Confusion continues over Priebke after funeral abandoned

German embassy denies receiving request about war criminal

16 October, 11:34
Confusion continues over Priebke after funeral abandoned (ANSA) - Rome, October 16 - Confusion over the fate of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke's body continued on Wednesday after his funeral in a town near Rome was abandoned Tuesday amid scenes of chaos.

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino said Wednesday that the city was in talks with the German authorities over what to do with Priebke's body.

But sources at the German embassy denied having received a formal request from officials from the Rome council or the Italian government. The funeral of the unrepentant former SS officer was abandoned in the town of Albano Laziale on Tuesday following clashes between protestors and far-right extremists.

Rome city and church authorities had previously refused to allowed the German's funeral to take place in the capital and the corpse has been taken to a military airport at Pratica di Mare for public order reasons. Priebke died Friday aged 100 under Rome house arrest for his part in the massacre of 335 men and boys, including 75 Jews, at the Ardeatine caves outside Rome in 1944. The Italian civilians were killed in retaliation for a partisan attack that killed 33 German soldiers.

"The prefect of Rome and the Italian government are in talks with the German embassy in Rome (to seek a solution)," said Marino, adding that the capital could not accept hosting the funeral of an executioner.

Rome Prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro also said contact had been made with the German authorities, adding he was confident the situation would be solved on Wednesday, before the German embassy denied receiving a request. Priebke's place of birth, the German town of Hennigsdord, located about 20 km northwest of Berlin, announced on Monday that it would not accept the body for burial.

The funeral was meant to be held on Tuesday by a controversial breakaway ultra-traditionalist Catholic body, the Lefebvrians, who are against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

A far-right extremist gave a Fascist salute as Priebke supporters clashed with protesters shouted ''murderer'' outside St. Pius X church in Albano Laziale after the town's mayor had unsuccessfully sought to stop the coffin arriving. Police separated the two sides and one demonstrator fainted amidst the turmoil as some tried to attack a Lefebvrian priest who struggled to enter the church as the crowd jostled and jeered at him. The hurst carrying the coffin was damaged after rocks and firecrackers were thrown at it and protesters hammered it with fists.