Nobody wants the body of deceased Nazi Erik Priebke except sympathisers. Neo-Nazis and protesters showed up at a funeral held for him by renegade Catholics; it was suspended.
Wherever a person like this is buried might attract extremists; that’s why war criminals can still be a problem after their deaths.
The former Gestapo captain who died in Rome on Friday had been there under house arrest for 15 years following a conviction in 1998. His trial lasted four years. Priebke said he was not guilty of war crimes, even though he led the execution of 335 Italian civilians. That was in retaliation for a partisan resistance attack in which 33 German soldiers were killed.
That was the massacre of the Ardeatine Caves. Priebke shot two men personally but said that he was simply doing his job, under direct orders from Hitler in Berlin.
Argentina welcomed him after the war. He had escaped from a British prison in northern Italy. He lived freely in Argentina for 50 years. Then he was interviewed by an American television crew, which led to his extradition to Italy in 1995.
Dictator Juan Peron ruled Argentina in 1945. He gave shelter to numerous Nazis, among them key Holocaust organiser Adolf Eichmann and death camp doctor of torture experiments Josef Mengele. This was the popular Peron to whom the famed Eva Duarte – Evita – was married.
Whenever a senior Nazi died, there was controversy over the handling of the corpse. Highly doubtful claims even about Hitler’s body persist, decades after he committed suicide as Berlin fell around him in 1945 – his remains were burnt and scattered.
Third Reich Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels and his wife followed that example in the Führer’s bunkers. But first they killed their six children. Holocaust co-author Heinrich Himmler took cyanide in an allied prison and was buried in an unmarked grave.
Priebke expressed no remorse for his acts. The Vatican – as never before – forbade any Catholic church in Rome from holding a funeral for him.
His birthplace near Berlin has also refused his remains.