As convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke prepares to celebrate his 100th birthday Tuesday, the former SS officer is ignoring calls to say he is sorry for his role in the massacre of hundreds of Italian civilians during World War II.
The BBC reports
that Priebke currently lives in a Rome apartment, where he is officially serving a life sentence under home detention — conditions some Italians believe are far too comfortable given his crime.
In 1998, Priebke was sentenced to life behind bars for his role in the March 1944 massacre of 335 Italian civilians at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome.
The massacre was a reprisal for a bombing by Italian partisans that killed 33 German soldiers. German Chancellor Adolf Hitler is believed to have ordered the murder of 10 times that number of local people. Victims were rounded up and taken to the caves, where they were shot.
The killings continued for hours, and one of those SS officers overseeing the slaughter was Priebke.
After the war, he escaped and went to Argentina, where he was tracked down by an American television journalist who asked about the massacre.
“An order was an order,” Priebke replied. “I had to carry it out.”
Eventually, he was extradited to Italy, convicted for his role in the mass killings and sentenced to life imprisonment. But Priebke said he was too old and sick for prison, and he was permitted to move from jail to house arrest.
Today, he lives in an apartment on a quiet street near the center of Rome. He has a roof terrace and “is permitted to come and go,” the BBC reported. “With an escort, he has always been allowed to do his shopping, take strolls in the park, or go out in the evening to eat with friends.”
For some residents, the idea that a convicted Nazi war criminal can live such a life in Rome — just miles from where he committed his crimes — is too much to accept, particularly given Priebke’s refusal to express remorse.
Sebastiano di Lascio, a lawyer representing massacre victims’ families, noted that while Priebke has lived to nearly 100, many of his victims, who included 17- and 18- year olds, never had the chance to grow old.
“It’s about time he admits he made a mistake and asks for forgiveness,” he said.
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