Nazi War Criminal Erich Priebke Dies in Italy

ROME (AP) -

Erich Priebke, a former Nazi SS captain who evaded arrest for nearly 50 years after taking part in one of the worst atrocities by German occupiers in Italy during World War II, died Friday, his lawyer said. He was 100.

Priebke was finally extradited to Italy from Argentina in 1995 to face trial for the 1944 massacre, and he was sentenced to life in prison. However he served that sentence under house arrest at the Rome home of his lawyer, Paolo Giachini.

Giachini announced the death and released a final interview conducted with Priebke in July during which the German denied that Nazis gassed Jews during the Holocaust and accused the West of having fabricated the crimes to minimize the Allies’ own abuses during the war.

Priebke was tried and convicted for his role in the 1944 massacre of 335 civilians by Nazi forces at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome.

Priebke had escaped in 1946 from a British prison camp in Rimini, a resort town on Italy’s Adriatic coast, and had lived in Argentina for nearly 50 years before a U.S. media program reported that he was living freely in the country.

That started a lengthy extradition process that ended with him boarding a plane in Argentina on Nov. 20, 1995, the 50th anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg trials, to stand trial in Italy.

The country’s highest appeals court upheld his conviction and life sentence in 1998. He was allowed to serve the term under house arrest due to his age, but was subsequently given small freedoms such as going to church and doing personal shopping — concessions that outraged Rome’s Jewish community.