Attempt to hold Italian funeral service for Nazi war criminal abandoned

Fierce protests over Priebke from enraged citizens

 People protest as the hearse with the body of former SS officer Erich Priebke arrives at the church of Lefebvriani yesterday  in Albano Laziale, Italy. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

People protest as the hearse with the body of former SS officer Erich Priebke arrives at the church of Lefebvriani yesterday in Albano Laziale, Italy. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Wed, Oct 16, 2013, 01:00

An attempt to hold a funeral service for the Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke in Albano Laziale, south of Rome, had to be abandoned last night in the face of fierce protests from outraged Albano citizens.

Priebke, who died last week in Rome, was one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals of Italian second World War history, having played a prominent role in the massacre of 335 Italians at the Fosse Ardeatine, Rome, in March 1944.

With the vicariate of Rome having made it clear it would not countenance a public funeral service, Priebke’s defence lawyer Paolo Giachini switched to a church outside Rome. The intention had been to hold the service in the chapel of the Saint Pius X Confraternity in Albano but when news got around, the “Lefebvre” institute found itself surrounded by an angry crowd who forced the service to be abandoned.

Tension further escalated when a group of neo-Nazi hardliners arrived, saying they wanted to attend the service.

The ultra-right wing Lefebvre movement has a consolidated tradition of Holocaust denial and pro-Nazi sympathies as illustrated by Fr Floriano Abrahamowicz, who told Radio 24 yesterday that Priebke had been “innocent” and that he had “only applied the martial law of the day”.