Nazi funeral called off in Italy amid protests
ALBANO LAZIALE - The Associated Press
File photo of former Nazi SS Captain Erich Priebke standing next to an Italian Carabinieri policeman during his trial in Italy May 8, 1996. REUTERS photoThe bitterly protested funeral of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke was called off hours after it was to have taken place Oct. 15 by his lawyer, who said police prevented friends and family members from attending amid a noisy protest against the planned religious ceremony.
Shouting “murderer” and “executioner,” hundreds of people jeered as Priebke’s coffin arrived for the funeral Mass to be celebrated by a splinter Catholic group opposed to the Vatican’s outreach to Jews. Protesters even heckled a priest arriving at the gates, yelling “Shame.”
But Priebke’s lawyer, Paolo Giachini, told The Associated Press the funeral did not take place “because authorities did not allow people to enter who wanted to come in. Everything was ready. We were waiting for those who should have arrived to participate.” They included Priebke’s son Ingo, other lawyers in Giachini’s firm, along and some younger, right-wing sympathizers, Giachini said. “They were there for a religious ceremony. They didn’t have banners or other political manifestations,” he said.
The casket remained inside and Giachini said he did not know what would happen next. He said he was turning over responsibility for future decisions to the family and expressed disappointment at the “indignities” that prevented the ceremony. Since Priebke’s death last week at age 100, debate has raged over what to do with his remains. Pope Francis’ vicar for Rome refused him a funeral in a Catholic Church and Rome’s police chief backed him up, citing concerns for public order.
Priebke participated in one of the worst massacres in German-occupied Italy during World War II, the slaughter of 335 civilians at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome. Tensions have been high ever since he died and left behind an interview in which he denied Jews were gassed in the Holocaust. No one appeared ready to handle Priebke’s service, until, in a surreal twist, the schismatic Society of St. Pius X in the city of Albano Laziale south of Rome stepped forward to celebrate the funeral Mass. The society, known for the anti-Semitic views of some of its members, celebrates the pre-Vatican II old Latin Mass. Where Priebke will be buried remains unresolved.