Nazi Priebke secretly buried in unmarked grave in Italian prison cemetery

Cross on his grave is unmarked except for a number and is in secret location around two hours outside of Rome.

By ERIC J. LYMAN
November 7, 2013 22:35
2 minute read.
Convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke

Convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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ROME – Erich Priebke, the unrepentant Nazi whose death in Rome last month sparked widespread controversy over what to do with his body, has been secretly buried in an unmarked grave in a prison cemetery, the Italian press reported on Thursday.

Priebke was under house arrest in Rome when he died October 11, 10 weeks after his 100th birthday. He had been convicted in Rome of helping to carry out the retaliatory murder of 335 Italians – including at least 70 Jews – in the Ardeatine caves outside Rome.

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Upon Priebke’s death, the Vatican ordered that no Catholic Church should offer Priebke a funeral or burial. A breakaway church group attempted to conduct a low-key funeral for Priebke near Rome, but was blocked by protests.

Five days after Priebke’s death, with his coffin in a storage facility at a military airport near the Italian capital, Jewish leaders on Remembrance Day – the 70th anniversary of the day that more than 1,000 Roman Jews were gathered up and deported to concentration camps – spoke out against Priebke’s deeds, though not one mentioned his name.

The final chapter in Priebke’s life is a final nondescript burial in a prison cemetery, “in a fenced off area... marked by a wooden cross in the underbrush,” according to a source quoted by the Italian daily La Repubblica.

The cross on his grave, it said, is unmarked except for a number and in a secret location that it said was in a mountainous area around two hours outside of Rome.

“The grave is on the only piece of Italian land where Priebke’s death can go back to simply being someone’s death and not a case of Nazi symbolism,” the article said, not identifying its sources. City officials in Rome, along with the Vatican and local Jewish leaders, expressed fears that Priebke’s grave could become a symbolic monument for neo-Nazi groups, and the law enforcement officials conducting the burial took steps to assure that would not happen. The coffin left the base at 3:45 on a Sunday morning in October, drove out of town, and was transferred to another car before reaching the burial site. Officials reportedly stood in a perimeter to make sure they were not watched and those who participated in the burial were sworn to secrecy.

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Priebke, nicknamed “The Butcher of the Ardeatine Caves,” escaped from custody soon after the end of World War II and fled to Argentina.

He lived there as a free man for nearly 50 years.

A US television news program filed a report on his whereabouts, and he was extradited to Rome to stand trial. He was found guilty in 1998, but because of his advanced age he was allowed to serve time under house arrest in a Rome apartment owned by his lawyer.

His 100th birthday in July sparked protests from activists, who complained that Priebke was too comfortable in the apartment and called on him to formally apologize for his wartime actions. But he never apologized.

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