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Notorious Nazi War Criminal Dies in Rome

  • VOA News

FILE - Convicted former Nazi SS captain Erich Priebke (L) leaves after attending a mass at a church in northern Rome, Italy.

FILE - Convicted former Nazi SS captain Erich Priebke (L) leaves after attending a mass at a church in northern Rome, Italy.

Erich Priebke, the defiant World War II Nazi SS officer convicted in the wartime massacre of 335 Italian civilians, has died in Rome. He was 100.

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica Friday reported Priebke's death, citing his lawyer.

A wartime captain in Germany's dreaded Waffen SS, Priebke fled to Argentina after the war. He was arrested there in 1994 and extradited to Rome, where he was tried, convicted and sentenced to a life term under house arrest.

Dubbed "the butcher of the Ardeatine Caves," he spent the rest of his life insisting he was only following orders from the Nazi high command. He never apologized for his role in the killings, which were a German retaliation for a partisan attack on Nazi forces occupying Rome in 1944.

Priebke was second in command at Gestapo headquarters in Rome on March 23, 1944, when a partisan bomb killed 33 Germans marching along a Rome street. Decades later, Priebke said an enraged Adolf Hitler personally ordered the Gestapo to execute 10 Italians for every German killed.

During his trial in the late 1990s, Priebke admitted killing two of the victims himself, and checking off a list of the other victims as they were marched into the caves south of Rome.

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