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World

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Un cadavre nazi encombrant

by Damien Roustel

A Cumbersome Nazi Corpse

Translated Sunday 27 October 2013, by Pilar Albisu

Neither Germany, his home country, nor Argentina, where he lived in hiding for more than forty years, nor Italy, where he died at the age of one hundred, want to claim the remains of Nazi war criminal, Erich Priebke, who died in Rome on October 11.

« Italy wanted him, had him extradited, tried, sentenced and jailed for years. Now it’s their turn to hold the hot potato!” Six days after the Nazi criminal’s death, neither Germany, his home country, nor Argentina, where he lived in hiding for more than forty years, nor Italy, where he died at the age of one hundred, want to claim the remains of Nazi war criminal, Erich Priebke, who died in Rome on October 11. In Rome, the former SS Captain’s lawyer, Paolo Giachini, still does not know what will happen to the body of the man responsible for the massacre at the Fosse Caves.

On March 24, 1944, 335 people, including 75 Jews, were executed in retaliation for an attack that had killed 33 German soldiers. After hiding for forty years in Argentina, the hundred year-old, Erich Priebke, had been living under house arrest in the Italian capital for fifteen years, after receiving a life sentence.

Today, neither Germany, nor Argentina, nor Italy, want to claim a body that has become quite cumbersome. Until October 17, the remains of the Nazi criminal were being kept in the military airport, Pratica di Mare, in the south of Rome. His funeral was interrupted on Wednesday, October 16, by conflicts between neo-Nazis and anti-fascist protestors. Out of sheer coincidence, the funeral was taking place the same day that Italians commemorate the deportation of thousands of Roman Jews, including two hundred children, to Auschwitz, in 1943.

According to government sources, as reported by the Italian news agency Ansa, Enrico Letta’s government is looking for “a solution in a complex legal and technical context”. The Roman prefect, Guiseppe Pecoraro, who has been heavily criticized for his handling of the matter, confirmed that they have “established contact with Germany”.

However, Berlin has indicated that “they still have not received any request” from the Italian authorities. Germany has nevertheless suggested that the Priebke family be the one to decide the body’s fate. A spokesperson for the mayor of Hennigsdorf, Priebke’s home town, has also claimed that they “refuse to bury Priebke”.

The mayor of Bariloche, the city in Argentina where Erich Priebke sought shelter, has also refused the remains. “The municipality’s position is the same as the Foreign Minister’s. He cannot, under any circumstances, be buried in Bariloche,” confirmed Maria Eugenia Martini.

A cremation might settle the issue, but according to Italian law, it must be authorized by the family, and Erich Priebke’s two sons have not requested it. “They have only asked that their father be given the right to a Catholic funeral and that his remains be respected,” says lawyer, Paolo Giachini. When asked, Jorge, one of Priebke’s sons, simply added fuel to the fire by proclaiming: “Let them bury my father in Israel!”


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