Protesters in Rome reacted angrily as a man said to be the grandson of a convicted Nazi war criminal tried to deliver champagne on his 100th birthday. There were shouts of “shame” and “disgrace” among the scuffles.
Erich Priebke, who lives under house arrest, has never expressed regret for organising the execution of 335 mostly Italian civilians in 1944.
The massacre at the Ardeatine Caves near Rome was one of Italy’s worst wartime atrocities. The victims were shot as revenge for an attack by partisan Communists that killed 33 German soldiers.
Hitler ordered that within 24 hours, ten Italians were to be killed for each dead German. Those brought to the caves and executed were described as prisoners for petty offences or anti-fascism, including many Jews.
Priebke, a German former SS captain, was held jointly responsible for organising the operation. His defence that he acted under orders was ultimately rejected.
The former SS officer lived in Argentina for 50 years before being extradited. He was eventually convicted in 1998 and sentenced to life imprisonment, which was commuted to house arrest because of his age.