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Nazi war criminal unrepentant

18 October 2013, 06:50

Rome - Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke spoke from beyond the grave on Thursday as his lawyer released a posthumous "video testament" for the man convicted of executing 335 civilians in caves near Rome.

Speaking in heavily accented Italian in the undated video, Priebke was unrepentant about his role in the Fosse Ardeatine massacre and blamed partisan resistance fighters for causing it.

The 1944 mass killing by Nazi occupiers was a retaliation against an Italian partisan attack in which 33 German soldiers were killed.

The Nazis shot 10 Italian civilians for each German soldier killed, and five more who were brought to the complex of caves by mistake.

"They carried out the attack knowing there would be retaliation... They thought a retaliation by us would trigger a revolution," Priebke said.

The Holocaust denier said a fellow SS officer "said it was Hitler's order to carry out the execution and whoever did not want to take part should stand with the victims and be shot".

"It was terrible for us doing something like that," the elderly Priebke said, without in any way apologising to the families of his victims.

Asked by an off-camera interlocutor whether he could have disobeyed a direct execution order, Priebke said: "Of course it was impossible".

The video was released as Italy struggled with a legal conundrum over how to dispose of Priebke's body after a funeral by a Catholic traditionalist splinter group sparked clashes on Tuesday.

The funeral was shut down by the police to prevent a neo-Nazi rally but the priest, Pierpaolo Petrucci, told Italian media that he managed to complete the ceremony at the seminary outside Rome.

Priebke's lawyer Paolo Giachini - a friend, business partner and defender of top neo-fascist militants - had claimed the funeral was suspended.

Giachini also claimed he had been given power of attorney by Priebke's son, Ingo, to dispose of the body according to the family's wishes but said it had been "kidnapped" by Italian authorities.

His claims could not be independently verified.

A government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP that "if Giachini does have power of attorney he can go and collect the body, no one is preventing him."

The official said that the body was still being held at a military airport outside Rome.

Immediately after World War II, Priebke escaped from a British POW camp. He was given Vatican travel documents by a pro-Nazi Austrian bishop and fled to Argentina, like many Nazi war criminals.

He lived there for decades before being extradited to Italy and convicted at a trial that included witnesses who were children at the time and saw him shooting victims in the back of the neck.



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