Convicted Nazi can leave home for work |

Convicted Nazi can leave home for work

Ariel David
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Plinio Lepri/AP PhotoFormer Nazi officer Erich Priebke, left, arrives in a Rome Military Court followed by a Carabinieri Italian paramilitary police officer, for a hearing in his trial, in this July 19, 1996 file photo.

ROME ” An Italian military court has allowed a former Nazi officer convicted for his role in a 1944 massacre to leave house arrest to work ” a ruling that sparked outrage among the families of those murdered, politicians and Jewish groups.

Since last month, 93-year-old Erich Priebke has been allowed to leave the Rome apartment where he is serving a life sentence to work at his lawyer’s office, according to the attorney, Paolo Giachini.

Priebke has been in prison or house arrest since he was extradited to Italy in 1994 from Argentina. He was convicted of war crimes three years later for his role in the massacre of 335 civilians at the Ardeatine Caves on the outskirts of Rome.

Priebke has admitted shooting two people and helping round up the victims, but has always insisted he was just following orders and should not be held responsible.

He was working as a translator because of his knowledge of German, Italian, Spanish and English, Giachini told The Associated Press. He said his client only came to the law firm “when necessary” and declined to say if Priebke was there Wednesday.

Giachini maintained that the judges “could not refuse this request” because Italian law affords such benefits to all convicts after 10 years in jail if they have been on good behavior.

“A man of 93 who gets a job at a law firm? It’s absurd, it’s a way to get around his sentence,” Amos Luzzatto, a former head of Italy’s Jewish communities, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper. “I hope that Priebke will not take advantage of this to organize an escape.”

Holocaust expert Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that the ruling “insults the family and friends of those murdered by Priebke and his cohorts.”

“The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of Holocaust perpetrators and people like him, who had no mercy for their victims, do not deserve any sympathy themselves,” he said in a statement.

Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni expressed solidarity with angered families of those killed in the massacre. Massimo Rendina, head of a group of former Italian resistance fighters in World War II, told Corriere that his association and the relatives were considering appealing the ruling.

The executions at the caves took place March 24, 1944, 24 hours after a partisan attack in central Rome that killed 33 members of a Nazi military police unit. Nazi forces decided to kill 10 Italians for every slain German, raiding prisons for dozens of political prisoners, taking 75 Jews, and adding common criminals and residents from near the site of the partisan attack.

They rounded up five more men than the 330 they sought and killed them all in the abandoned quarry.

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