B’nai B’rith International commends the Catholic Church and the city of Rome for denying recently deceased Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke burial in the Italian capital following his death on Oct. 11, while serving out a life sentence under house arrest.
Priebke, an SS captain, was convicted of overseeing the massacre of 335 Italians in the Ardeatine Caves just outside of Rome, including personally murdering some of the victims. In 1994, after living in Argentina for 50 years, ABC News tracked Priebke down and interviewed him on the TV show “Primetime,” on which he nonchalantly discussed his murderous past. Following the interview, Priebke was extradited to Italy with the help of B’nai B’rith International and its then-President Tommy Baer, who worked directly with the Argentine president. Priebke was tried and convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1997.
“It’s truly repulsive that this criminal was able to live much of his life uninterrupted, after he prematurely ended the lives of so many,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “It’s a source of pride that B’nai B’rith played a major role in bringing Priebke to justice. While it doesn’t undo any of the evil he committed, all those affected by the Nazis can take solace in the fact that he was not able to live out his final years in comfort.”
Both the Vatican and the mayor of Rome declared Priebke would not be buried in the city, but the reactionary Catholic group Society of Saint Pius X offered Priebke a funeral in the Rome suburb of Albano Laziale. The Oct. 16 funeral was halted by police after protestors converged on the hearse carrying Priebke’s remains and clashed with fascist sympathizers. Police also prevented Priebke’s friends and relatives from entering the local church.
The Nazi’s body remains in limbo. The Argentine foreign minister denied a request that Priebke be buried in Argentina, and his hometown of Hennigsdorf, Germany also denied a burial request.
“The Catholic Church and the city of Rome did the right thing in denying Priebke a funeral. He was a vile criminal, and on top of his atrocious involvement in the murder of 335 Italian citizens—including 75 Jews—he was complicit in deportation of Italian Jews to Auschwitz,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The work that led to his extradition in 1995 and now the denial of multiple burial requests serve as a reminder of how important it is to educate people on the evil acts of Holocaust perpetrators and to always honor the memories of their victims.”