Former Nazi SS Captain Erich Priebke is escorted by Argentine police as he prepares to board a flight taking him to Rome to face trial, in November 1995.
A leading Nazi-hunter at a Jewish rights group said on Tuesday that the body of an ex-SS captain at the center of a diplomatic wrangle should be cremated.
Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, said the body of Erich Priebke should “share the fate of millions of the Nazis’ victims, who have no grave to cry to.”
Priebke died at age 100 in Rome last Friday while serving a life sentence under house arrest. His body has become something of a diplomatic problem.
His birthplace in Germany became on Tuesday the third place, after Rome and Argentina, to reject the idea that he could be buried there, fearful it would energize neo-Nazi sentiment.
But Zuroff -- who compiles a yearly list of the “most wanted” living Nazis and attempts to bring them to justice -- said the solution is simple.
“Burn the body and scatter the ashes,” he said.
“The last thing anyone wants is for his grave to turn into a shrine for the neo-Nazis, and we have to remember he was a totally unsympathetic Nazi who showed no remorse for the murders he committed.
“Why shouldn't he share the share the fate of millions of the Nazis' victims, who have no grave to cry to and no place to grieve?”
Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images
People gather outside the church of Lefebvriani, in Albano Laziale, on Tuesday, where the funeral of Erich Priebke took place.
Priebke was serving a life sentence under house arrest for his part in the killing of 335 civilians in 1944 near Rome. He admitted his role in what was Italy’s worst wartime massacre and never apologized.
He also claimed the Holocaust was an invention by Western powers to cover up their own human rights atrocities.
Priebke’s lawyer, Paolo Giachini, told Reuters on Sunday that the family would be seeking a burial in Rome as soon as possible.
But authorities in the Italian capital were quick to reject this, with left-leaning mayor Ignazio Marino saying it would be an insult to the city, according to several reports.
Argentina, where Priebke lived after the war and where his wife is buried, has also refused to allow his body to be buried there.
This prompted growing speculation that Priebke could be buried in his German hometown of Hennigsdorf, near Berlin.
Martin Schaefer, a German foreign ministry spokesman, told the Associated Press that the family has not yet put in a request to bury Priebke in Germany. But officials in Hennigsdorf said on Tuesday that they have rejected any suggestion he could be laid to rest there, following fears his grave could become a shrine for neo-Nazis.
To mark Priebke's 99th birthday last year around 40 neo-Nazis wearing masks of his face held a torch-lit ceremony in his hometown.
"We don't have to bury Priebke in Hennigsdorf and we will not do it," a town hall spokeswoman told Reuters.
They added that as there was no evidence that members of his family were buried there, the town had no obligation to take him.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published October 15 2013, 9:53 AM