Jews in Rome protest work permit for convicted ex-SS officer

Last month, Erich Priebke won permission to leave the Rome apartment where he is serving a life sentence.

A 93-year-old former Nazi SS captain who is serving a life sentence for a 1944 massacre of Italian civilians traveled to his lawyer's office on a motorbike on a work-release permit, outraging Jews and prompting Italy's defense minister to summon a military prosecutor for an explanation. Last month, Erich Priebke won permission to leave the Rome apartment where he is serving a life sentence to work as a translator at his lawyer's office in the Italian capital. Priebke, wearing a helmet, was photographed on Monday on the back of a motorbike, being driven to the lawyer's office. Dozens of Rome Jews, shouting "Murderer!" demonstrated in the street outside the office. Defense Minister Arturo Parisi summoned a military prosecutor for an explanation following the news reports about Priebke, the defense ministry said. Several hours later, the Italian news agency ANSA reported that a judge ordered the work permit suspended because Priebke had failed to inform authorities when he was going to work and how. Court offices were closed and officials could not be reached for comment. Priebke has been in prison or under house arrest since he was extradited to Italy in 1994 from Argentina, where had a been a school principal. He was convicted of war crimes three years later for his role in the massacre of 335 civilians at the Ardeatine Caves on the outskirts of Rome. He admitted shooting two people and helping round up the victims, but has always insisted he was just following orders. Italian law affords such benefits as daytime work-release to convicts after 10 years in jail as a reward for good behavior. Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni expressed his dismay over the permission, noting that Priebke has expressed no public remorse for the massacre. The civilians were executed in Nazi-occupied Rome on March 24, 1944, in retaliation for an attack by Italian resistance fighters that killed 33 members of a Nazi military police unit. The Nazis decided to kill 10 Italians for every slain German. They rounded up political prisoners, taking 75 Jews as well as criminals from jails and residents from near the site of the attack on the Nazis. They rounded up five more men than the 330 they sought and killed them all in the abandoned quarry outside Rome.