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Italian Jews laud protests against funeral of Nazi war criminal Priebke

October 16, 2013

(Supporters of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke shout slogans after the hearse carrying his coffin arrived in Albano Laziale near Rome October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Yara Nardi)

The head of Rome’s Jewish community praised protesters who blocked the funeral of a convicted Nazi war criminal as Italy marked on Wednesday the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from the Rome ghetto.

Erich Priebke’s final resting place is now unclear after the protesters forced a suspension of his funeral on Tuesday in the Italian town of Albano Laziale. His body is lying at a military airport near Rome pending a decision from the authorities.

The former German SS officer died aged 100 last week in Rome, where he had been serving a life sentence under house arrest for his role in the killing of 335 civilians in 1944 in caves near the capital, one of Italy’s worst wartime massacres.

At a ceremony in Rome’s main synagogue, the head of Rome’s Jewish community drew loud applause as he lauded the citizens and mayor of Albano Laziale for resisting Priebke’s funeral.

“For this we feel proud to be Romans,” the president of the Jewish Community of Rome, Riccardo Pacifici, said at the event to mark the anniversary of the Nazis’ rounding up of 1,000 Jews from Rome’s centuries-old ghetto and their deportation to Auschwitz. Only 16 of them survived.

“I do not even want to say his (Priebke’s) name, not to profane this sacred place,” said the head of Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Renzo Gattegna.

“He never repented of his crimes and repeated the most incredible arguments denying the Holocaust.”

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