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Ex-Nazi officer's holiday in Italy cut short

The lakeside holiday of a former Nazi SS officer serving a life sentence for his part in a 1944 massacre was cut short on Friday following protests.
File photo of former Nazic SS officer Priebke waving before his extradition to Italy from southern Argentina
Former Nazi officer Erich Priebke boards a plane in Argentina in November 1995 to be extradited to Italy for war crimes.Reuters FILE
/ Source: Reuters

The lakeside holiday of a former Nazi SS officer serving a life sentence for his part in a 1944 massacre was cut short on Friday following protests by outraged Italians and international Jewish groups.

Former SS Captain Erich Priebke, 92, decided to leave his friend’s villa in Cardana di Besozzo where he had been enjoying a police-supervised vacation approved by a court and head back to Rome, where he has been under house arrest for six years.

“We’re obviously happy that Priebke has left and we sincerely hope he never returns,” left-wing opposition politician Giovanni Martina told reporters.

Priebke was extradited from Argentina and convicted in 1998 for the slaughter of 335 Italian men and boys at the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome.

He was released into house arrest a year later because of his advanced age and fading health.

But this week, a judge approved his temporary transfer to the villa on the shores of Lake Maggiore, in northern Italy, under police surveillance.

Opposition politicians and residents of the town, population 8,000, demanded an end to the holiday and threatened to stage protest marches on Saturday.

The regional president had said his hands were tied because the transfer was court approved.

The judge defended his decision, saying it was a simple transfer of house arrest from one domicile to another.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish rights group, weighed in on Friday, saying if the “unrepentant mass murderer” wanted a change of scenery he should go and sleep at the Ardeatine Caves memorial.

According to local political leaders, Priebke decided to return to house arrest in Rome.

The Ardeatine massacre was one of many shootings carried out as German troops retreated to the “Gothic Line” of defense that cut across Italy from the port of La Spezia to the Adriatic.