The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/p/priebke.erich/press/priebke-background


Archive/File: holocaust/italy priebke.001
Last-Modified: 1994/05/17
Source: soc.culture.jewish.holocaust newsgroup, UseNet
From: Werner Uhrig 

Date: 15 May 1994 01:22:00 GMT
Message-ID: <2r3tfo$t2n@bigblue.oit.unc.edu>
Title: Priebke's Crimes -- the News Reports

Rabbi: Nazi Lives In Argentina
Ex-Nazi Says He Saw Massacre
May  8: Former Nazi Says he Feels No Remorse over Massacre
May  7: AP - Italy Wants Ex-Nazi Extradited
May  7: Reuters - Italy Wants Argentina to Give up Former Nazi
May  9: AP - Ex-Nazi Sought In Argentina
May  9: Reuters - Italy Seeks Arrest of Former SS Man for War Crime
May 11: Reuters - Ex-Nazi Wanted in Italy ``Helped Spring Mussolini''
May 11: AP - Ex-SS Capt. To Go To Italy
May 11: Reuters - Nazi Will be Sent to Italy If All in Order - Menem

                     Rabbi: Nazi Lives In Argentina

(May x) NEW YORK (AP) -- A Nazi officer accused of rounding up Jews in
Italy during World War II and helping to massacre more than 300
civilians in caves near Rome is living in Argentina, a Jewish group
says.

        The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles is asking Germany
to reopen the case of SS Captain Erich Priebke, said Rabbi Marvin
Hier, dean of the center.

        The trail leading to Priebke started at the Vatican after the
war, where a man working for a German bishop helped smuggle former
Nazis to South America in an operation dubbed the ``Rat Line,'' Hier
said.

        That man, a German named Reinhard Kops, was located last year
in Argentina by the Wiesenthal Center.

        Now in his 70s, Kops lives several hundred miles from Buenos
Aires and goes by the name Juan Mahler.

        When the ABC News show ``Prime Time Live'' went to Argentina
last month to do a story on former Nazis living in South America, the
center told them about Kops.  ABC confronted him on the street near
his home with evidence provided by the center, and Kops admitted his
wartime activities.

        He also fingered Priebke, now in his 70s, who lives nearby.

        Priebke was second-in-command to Herbert Kappler, an SS
colonel in Rome who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in
the executions of 335 Italian civilians, including 70 Jews, in the
Ardeatine Caves near Rome on March 24, 1944.  Kappler died in 1978.

        Priebke escaped from a British detention camp in Northern
Italy after the war and vanished, Hier said.

        The rabbi said his center has documents showing that Priebke
rounded up Jews in Italy under orders of Nazi mastermind Adolf
Eichmann, who oversaw the deportation of Europe's Jews to the Nazi
concentration camps.

        Eichmann was captured in 1960 in Argentina, convicted of war
crimes in Israel and hanged in 1962.

        Hier said one document showed Priebke's role in the cave
massacre was to line the victims up and ``check them off as they were
shot.''

        In documents ABC News has obtained, Priebke also admitted he
shot at least two of the victims, who died with their hands tied
behind their backs, Hier said.

        The Wiesenthal center has sent a letter to a special
prosecutor in Ludwigsberg, Germany, requesting that Priebke be
extradited to Germany and charged with crimes against humanity, Hier
said in a telephone interview from his hotel room in New York City.


                       Ex-Nazi Says He Saw Massacre

(May x) BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- A former Nazi officer living
under his own name in Argentina for nearly 50 years has admitted
being present at the massacre of 335 Italian civilians during World
War II.

        Former SS Capt. Erich Priebke, 80, told Argentine media he was
following orders from Adolf Hitler in connection with the execution
of Italians in the Ardeatine Caves near Rome on March 24, 1944.

        The massacre was in reprisal for the killing of 32 German
soldiers by Italian partisans in Nazi-occupied Rome.

        ``Later, the order came from Berlin to kill 10 Italians for each
German killed,'' Priebke told Diarios y Noticias news agency on
Friday. Seventy of those killed were Jews.

        The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tries to track down Nazi war
criminals, has asked Germany to reopen Priebke's case. The case was
closed when Priebke could not be located.

        The center used an undercover agent to infiltrate a neo-Nazi
group in Germany, which led them to Priebke and other reputed
former Nazis living in South America.

        The German Embassy in Buenos Aires said it received a fax Friday
from the Foreign Ministry in Bonn asking for information about
Priebke.

        ``If there are indications that he took part in this massacre, a
prosecutor will begin investigations,'' embassy press chief Manfred
Emmes told The Associated Press. ``If the prosecutor comes to the
conclusion that a war crime was committed, he will ask for an
arrest order.''

        Germany has no extradition treaty with Argentina, so Argentina
would have to agree to send Priebke to Germany. In 1990, Argentina
sent Josef Schwammberger to Germany, where he was sentenced to life
in prison for killing and ordering the deaths of Jews at slave
labor camps in Poland.

        Priebke is a prominent member of the German community in
Bariloche, 1,100 miles southwest of Buenos Aires, and president of
a local German-Argentine cultural association.

        Emmes said Priebke had come to Argentina in 1947 or 1948 and has
been in Bariloche since the early 1950s. The embassy had helped
Priebke with cultural and social events but did not know of his
Nazi past, Emmes said.

        ``We wouldn't want a person like that to be head of the cultural
association,'' Emmes said.

        Priebke first publicly admitted taking part in the massacre in
an interview with the ABC-TV news program ``Prime Time Live,''
which aired on Thursday. He told the program, and repeated again
Friday to a state-owned radio station in Bariloche, that he did not
deport or kill Jews.

        Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los
Angeles, told the news program that claim was ``ridiculous.''

        Hier sent a German special prosecutor in charge of Nazi war
crimes four documents found in Italian archives that Hier said
``link Erich Priebke to the deportation of Jews.''

        ``I think these documents, plus Priebke's admission that he was
present in the caves during the massacre, create sufficient reason
for his case to be reopened,'' Hier said in the April 29 letter to
Alfred Streim, a prosecutor in the city of Ludwigsburg.

        Hier said in New York on Friday one document showed Priebke's
role in the cave massacre was to line the victims up and ``check
them off as they were shot.''

        Sergio Widder, the Wiesenthal center's representative in
Argentina, said he did not know Priebke lived in Argentina until
ABC contacted the center.

        ``He must have had a feeling of impunity to be able to go around
without fear of being caught,'' Widder told The AP.

        Argentine government archives show that dozens of war criminals
and hundreds of collaborators immigrated to Argentina, often with
the help of high-ranking government officials.

        Files also show that many lived in Argentina without fear of
being captured. Josef Mengele, for example, came to Argentine under
a fake identity on an International Red Cross passport, but later
used his own name.

        Priebke had been second-in-command to Herbert Kappler, an SS
colonel in Rome who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in
the Ardeatine Caves massacre. Kappler died in 1978.

        Priebke escaped from a British detention camp in Northern Italy
after the war and vanished, Hier said.


          Former Nazi Says he Feels No Remorse over Massacre

(May 8) BUENOS AIRES (Reuter) - Former German Nazi SS captain Erich
Priebke, who took part in the worst massacre of Italians during
World War Two, said he feels no remorse about his past and even
sleeps soundly.

         Priebke, 81, told the daily Clarin in an interview published
Sunday that the execution of 335 Italians at Rome's Ardeatine
Caves in March 1944 was ``an action of war.''

         ``I would have preferred not to do it, but it was a war and
that's how wars are,'' said Priebke, who has lived in Argentina
without concealing his identity since he escaped from a British
prison camp in Italy in 1948.

         The former SS captain's doctor said in a telephone interview
that Priebke was resting at his home in the resort city of San
Carlos de Bariloche, 1,000 miles southwest of Buenos Aires.

         ``He is not very sick but he was feeling tired, worried and
depressed after last week's upheaval. I prescribed him a few
days' rest at home,'' Enrique Giron told Reuters.

         Calls to Priebke's home were answered by an elderly woman
with a German accent who said he was not there.

         Priebke came under the limelight last week when the U.S.
television network ABC tracked him down and got him to
acknowledge he had taken part in the Adreatine Caves massacre.

         That story prompted Italy's Justice Ministry to say Saturday
that it will seek Priebke's extradition.

         Argentine Foreign Affairs vice minister Fernando Petrella
said Sunday that no request for Priebke's arrest had been
received here, adding that local courts would rule whether he
should to be handed to Italy.

         Argentina was a haven for people escaping from Europe after
World War Two. Along with thousands of Jewish survivors of Nazi
death camps, many war criminals found refuge here as authorities
generally turned a blind eye to their records.

         Petrella, in his radio interview, said Argentina had come
clean of its past by declassifying its files on Nazis in 1992.

         ``Argentina's example could be followed by countries that
played a leading role in World War Two and have not done so,''
the official told a radio interviewer.

         In his interview with Clarin, Priebke justified the
Adreatine Caves massacre, arguing that the prisoners were
terrorists executed on Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's orders in
retaliation for a bomb that killed 33 German soldiers in Rome.

         Hitler reportedly demanded that 10 civilians be executed for
every German killed in the bombing.

         ``They were terrorists,'' Priebke said. ``Communist
terrorists. And they had killed German soldiers. It was an
action of war in retaliation for the bombing, as a British
military tribunal ruled and absolved us,'' he said.

         He added: ``They were not Jews, as it has been said. Maybe
there were a few Jews among the 335 but they were shot because
they were communists -- not because of their religion. I was not
an anti-Semite. I was a Nazi, but not an anti-Semite.''

         Priebke, a leader of the German community in Bariloche who
heads the board of governors of one of the city's most
prestigious private schools, added that he had never killed a
Jew nor ordered any to be sent to concentration camps.

         Italian accounts of the massacre hold that there were 75
Jewish Italians, teenagers, women, common prisoners and even one
Roman Catholic priest among the victims.

         Priebke told Clarin that he had helped make the list of
prisoners to be shot and stood at the caves' entrance -- ticking
off names as victims descended to their death.

         ``Once they were inside, (SS colonel Herbert) Kappler was
first one to shoot. He was our boss. We officers followed him by
rank. He gave the order and we shot. I don't know how long it
took, but I suppose it was a lot of time because 335 people are
not executed quickly,'' he added.

         Asked if he felt any remorse about his past or if he ever
had nightmares about the killing, he told Clarin: ``No. I sleep
soundly because you get over things.''


                  Italy Wants Ex-Nazi Extradited

(May 7) ROME (AP) -- Italy will ask Argentina to extradite a former Nazi
SS officer who admitted taking part in the massacre of 335
civilians near Rome in 1944.

        The ministry, in a communique, said Saturday it ``immediately
began action'' on an extradition request after a U.S. television
network reported that former Nazi Capt. Erich Priebke was living in
Argentina.

        Priebke, 80, escaped in 1946 from a British prison camp in
Rimini, a resort town on Italy's Adriatic coast. He has lived in
Argentina for nearly 50 years.

        He has been sought for his role in the 1944 execution, by German
occupying troops, of 335 Italians, including priests, about 100
Jews, some foreigners and a 14-year-old boy. The civilians were
rounded up in reprisal for the killing of 32 German soldiers by
partisans waging a fight against Nazi occupiers.

        Although they had no role in the killing of the German soldiers,
the prisoners were taken to the Ardeatine Caves near Rome, where
they were shot.

        Priebke, now a leader of the German community in the Argentine
city of Bariloche, told Argentine media he was following orders
from Adolf Hitler for the reprisal killings. Although he
acknowledged being present during the massacre, he denied
personally killing or deporting any Jews.

          Italy Wants Argentina to Give up Former Nazi

(May 7) ROME (Reuter) - Italy said Saturday it would seek the
extradition from Argentina of former Nazi Erich Priebke, who has
admitted helping with the 1944 killing of 355 people outside
Rome, the worst war crime committed in the country during World
War Two.

         Priebke, who escaped from a British prisoner-of-war camp in
1948, was tracked down in Argentina by the ABC television
network, whose report was broadcast Friday night.

         The killings in the Fosse Adreatine caves, near the
catacombs of early Christians on the outskirts of Rome, are
etched into Italy's national consciousness. President Oscar
Luigi Scalfaro lays a wreath at their monument several times a
year.

         The victims, who included 75 Jews, were executed in reprisal
for a partisan bomb attack which killed 33 German SS
stormtroopers. Nazi authorities ordered 10 hostages to be
executed for every dead soldier but mistakenly killed an extra
five people.

         ``The justice ministry is trying to acquire every element to
pursue Erik (sic) Priebke in Italy, and is starting procedures
for his extradition to Italy,'' a ministry statement said.

         The ABC report prompted an immediate call by Rome's chief
rabbi Elio Toaff for the former Nazi to be brought to trial.

         ``Justice demands that sooner or later those who have
stained themselves with crimes against humanity pay for their
faults,'' he said. ``Terrible events such as this cannot be
forgotten.''

         Priebke, a colonel in the SS, spent 20 months in custody
after the war. Italian media said he now lived in the Andean
town of San Carlo Bariloche, where he was chairman of the
Argentine-German cultural association.

         At the caves, his main job was to tick off the names of
those about to die, although he admitted after the war to
shooting at least two people himself.

         ``When the first of those who were condemned were killed I
was there, I saw them,'' he was quoted as saying in a transcript
of ABC's interview published in Il Messaggero newspaper.

         Priebke said in the transcript he regretted the killings but
had obeyed orders. ``Many youngsters do things that they end up
regretting when they grow old, as I have,'' he said.

         ``You know what the orders were. You know that things of
this kind happen during a war.''

         Arrigo Paladini, an Italian soldier captured by the Germans
behind their lines, recounted his memory of Priebke to Il
Messaggero.

         ``I remember Captain Priebke's method of interrogation very
well,'' he said. ``He used to hit me in the thorax with the
knuckle-duster he habitally used with all prisoners.''

                       Ex-Nazi Sought In Argentina

(May 9) ROME (AP) -- A judge for a military tribunal signed an arrest
warrant Monday for a former Nazi officer who is living in Argentina
and reportedly has admitted a role in the 1944 massacre of 335
civilians near Rome.

        Italy's justice minister had said Saturday that it had begun the
paperwork to seek the extradition of Erich Priebke from Bariloche,
Argentina, to face trial for war crimes. Priebke, a former captain
in the Nazi SS, has lived in Argentina for nearly 50 years and
leads a German community in the town.

        The warrant was signed by Judge Giuseppe Mazzi, the Italian news
agency AGI reported. If extradited, Priebke would be judged by the
military court, made up of two magistrates and a military official
chosen by lot from the armed forces.

        Priebke escaped in 1946 from a British military prison camp in
Italy. He was a top aide to Herbert Kappler, a convicted Nazi war
criminal who escaped from an Italian military hospital in Italy in
1977 and died the next year in Germany.

        Priebke is wanted in connection with the execution of 335
civilians, including a 14-year-old boy, by German soldiers in
retaliation for the killing of 32 German soldiers by Italian
partisans.

        He was quoted as telling Argentine news media last week that he
was following orders from Adolf Hitler in rounding up people for
the reprisal. Although he acknowledged being present during the
massacre, he denied personally killing anyone.


        Italy Seeks Arrest of Former SS Man for War Crime

(May9) ROME (Reuter) - An Italian military judge Monday issued a
warrant for the arrest of former German Nazi SS captain Erich
Priebke, now living in Argentina, on suspicion of involvement in
the killings of 335 Italians at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome
in 1944.

         The warrant, signed by examining magistrate Giuseppe Mazzi,
will allow the Justice Ministry to begin extradition proceedings
against Priebke, who has lived in Argentina since his escape
from a British prison camp in Italy in 1948.

         If extradited, Priebke, 81, would be tried by a court
martial consisting of two magistrates and an officer of the
Italian armed forces.

         Argentine deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Fernando Petrella
said Sunday that local courts would rule whether Priebke should
to be handed to Italy.

         Priebke was traced last week by the U.S. television network
ABC to the Andean town of San Carlos de Bariloche, 1,000 miles
(1,600 km) southwest of Buenos Aires.

         He has acknowledged that he took part in the Ardeatine
killings, including shooting at least one victim, but told ABC
he regretted his involvement and had been following orders.

         ``Many youngsters do things that they end up regretting when
they grow old, as I have,'' Priebke said.

         He told Italian television separately that the killings were
a ``hard and just reprisal'' for an Italian partisan bomb attack
which killed 33 German soldiers in Rome.

         The victims, who included 75 Jews and a number of teenagers,
women and a Roman Catholic priest, were taken from Italian and
German prisons to the caves and shot.

         Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal told Italian radio that his
documentation centre in Vienna had been aware since 1989 that
Priebke was living in Argentina.

         He said the centre knew Priebke was deputy to SS lieutenant
colonel Herbert Kappler and that Kappler had taken him to the
caves ``but not precisely what role he played in the massacre.''

         Kappler served 30 years of a life sentence for the Ardeatine
massacre. He was smuggled out of a military prison hospital in
Italy by his wife Anneliese in 1977 and died six months later of
cancer in former West Germany.

         The military court which tried Kappler halted proceedings
against Priebke in 1948 after he vanished.

         ``He has never been tried in Italy and so there can be no
question that he was ever absolved,'' Italian military
prosecutor Antonino Intelisano told reporters.

         Priebke told the Argentine newspaper Clarin in an interview
published Sunday that he had helped make the list of prisoners
to be shot and stood at the caves' entrance -- ticking off names
as victims descended to their death.

         ``Once they were inside, Kappler was first one to shoot. He
was our boss. We officers followed him by rank. He gave the
order and we shot,'' Priebke was quoted as saying.

         He called the victims ``communist terrorists'' who had been
killed in an act of war and said a British military tribunal had
absolved him of wrongdoing.

         Asked if he felt any remorse about his past or if he ever
had nightmares about the killing, Priebke told Clarin: ``No. I
sleep soundly because you get over things.''

        Ex-Nazi Wanted in Italy ``Helped Spring Mussolini''

(May 11) ROME (Reuter) - Former SS captain Erich Priebke, wanted in
Italy for war crimes, played a key role in a dramatic operation
to spring fascist dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity in
1943, a leading Nazi-hunter said Wednesday.

         Rabbi Marvin Hier said he had reliable evidence that
Priebke, then a senior Gestapo police officer in Rome, was
awarded the Iron Cross for pinpointing the mountaintop hideout
where Mussolini was being held.

         ``It is absolutely reliable. It comes from an impeccable
source in Germany who cannot be challenged,'' Hier, head of the
Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said.

         Once freed, Mussolini set up a puppet fascist ``Republic of
Salo'' in northern Italy in the final 18 months of World War
Two.

         Hier's claim could embarrass the new Italian government of
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the media magnate whose
cabinet includes three members of the neo-fascist Italian Social
Movement (MSI).

         The MSI was founded in 1946 to keep the ideals of fascism
alive. Several of its older members of parliament fought under
the Salo banner to try to re-instate Mussolini's regime
nationwide.

         Priebke, now 81, is under house arrest in Argentina pending
extradition proceedings. Italy wants to try him before a
military tribunal in connection with the killing of 335 Italians
at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome in March 1944.

         In Argentina, President Carlos Menem said Wednesday that his
government would hand Priebke over immediately if the details of
Italy's extradition request were all in order.

         ABC television traced Priebke last week to the Andean resort
of San Carlos di Bariloche, where he had lived without
concealing his identity since fleeing Italy in 1948. Hier says
he helped to lead the TV team to Priebke.

         He said his German source, who he asked not be named, had
cited documentary evidence that Priebke found the hideout on the
Gran Sasso mountain where Italian police were holding Mussolini
after Italy broke with Nazi Germany in September 1943.

         Adolf Hitler sent his kidnap specialist Otto Skorzeny to
lead a glider assault by paratroopers on the Gran Sasso, the
highest mountain in central Italy, to spring the deposed Duce
from captivity on September 12.

         Mussolini, who had been arrested after his Fascist Grand
Council ousted him in July 1943, was flown to a meeting with
Hitler before returning to Italy to lead his last-ditch fascist
state in the German-occupied north.

         Hier said his German source told him documentary evidence
``showed that Priebke was involved in the liberation of
Mussolini and was decorated with the Iron Cross, Second Class,
for his part.''

                      Ex-SS Capt. To Go To Italy

(May 11) BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- A former SS officer living in
Argentina helped Italian dictator Benito Mussolini escape from a
mountain jail, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Wednesday.

        Former SS Capt. Erich Priebke, who has lived in Argentina under
his own name since the late 1940s, has admitted taking part in the
massacre of hundreds of Italian civilians near Rome in 1944. On
Wednesday, the Argentine government said he would be extradited to
Italy to stand trial for war crimes.

        Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Wiesenthal Center, told The
Associated Press that German government archives show that Priebke,
80, received the Iron Cross Second Class and a citation for
``discovering Mussolini's whereabouts.''

        The dictator, deposed and arrested in July 1943, was rescued by
SS parachutists in the Gran Sasso mountains in east-central Italy
on Sept. 12, 1943. He was executed by Italian partisans on April
28, 1945.

        The citation was signed by SS Col. Herbert Kappler, Hier said by
telephone from Los Angeles. Priebke was second-in-command to
Kappler in Italy and was at the Ardeatine Caves when 335 civilians
were executed in reprisal for the killing of 32 German soldiers by
partisans in Nazi-occupied Rome.

        Hier, speaking by telephone from Los Angeles, would not say who
gave the information about Priebke to the Wiesenthal Center, which
tries to track down Nazi war criminals.

        On Wednesday President Carlos Menem of Argentina said Priebke
will be extradited to Italy ``immediately, if all the documents are
in order.''

        Menem told a local radio station that Priebke ``is a war
criminal who unfortunately wasn't detected until now.''

        ``When the formal extradition request is received from the
Italian justice system, and everything is in order, he will
immediately be sent to Italy to be judged there,'' Menem said.

        Italian prosecutors signed an order Monday seeking Priebke's
extradition.

        Priebke has lived more than 40 years in Bariloche, a town of
80,000 in the Andean foothills, where he is now under house arrest.
He is the president of a local German-Argentine cultural
association, which oversees a 700-student private school.

        Priebke told ABC-TV's ``PrimeTime Live'' news magazine that he
did not shoot anyone at the caves, but later told Argentine media
that he shot one person.

        Two separate cases against Priebke, one in Germany and one in
Italy, were dropped in the 1960s when Priebke couldn't be located,
Hier said.

         Nazi Will be Sent to Italy If All in Order - Menem

(May 11) BUENOS AIRES (Reuter) - Argentina will hand over
former Nazi Erich Priebke immediately if the details of an
Italian extradition request are all in order, President Carlos
Menem said Wednesday.

         Menem, in a radio interview, said he was sorry that the
former SS captain, who admitted taking part in Italy's worst
World War Two massacre, was only unmasked 46 years after he
arrived in Argentina.

         ``If everything is in order, he will be sent immediately to
Italy to face trial over there, because the crime was committed
in that country,'' the Peronist leader said.

         Priebke, 81, has been under house arrest since an Italian
military court requested his detention Monday night. Under a
bilateral agreement, Italy has 45 days to present a formal
extradition request.

         The former SS officer told reporters this week that he had
helped draw up a list of 335 Italians executed March 24, 1944,
in Rome's Ardeatine Caves in retaliation for a bomb that killed
33 German soldiers.

         Priebke, who broke out of a British-run prison in Rimini in
1947, has also said that he shot one prisoner in the caves on
his commander's order.

         The commander, SS Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler, was
sentenced to life imprisonment for the Ardeatine Caves killings
in 1948. He escaped from a Roman jail in 1978 and died shortly
after.

         Priebke was uncovered last week by an ABC television team in
the Andean lake resort of San Carlos de Bariloche, 1,000 miles
south of Buenos Aires.

         Pedro Bianchi, the lawyer defending Priebke, argued that the
former SS officer has a good chance of beating extradition
because of statute of limitation restrictions and because two
rulings on the massacre have been made without convictions of
his client.

         The Italian arrest warrant, however, said no statute of
limitations should be applied in this case.

         ``This is an action punished with life imprisonment besides
the aggravating circumstance that Priebke acted with cruelty
toward the (victims),'' the warrant read.

         Jewish and Italian organizations have charged that Priebke
worked in the SS office in Rome responsible for sending Italian
Jews and political dissidents to death camps. The former Nazi,
however, has denied any involvement.

May  9: AP - Ex-Nazi Never Denied His Past

                     Ex-Nazi Never Denied His Past

(May  9) BARILOCHE, Argentina (AP) -- When Erich Priebke admitted playing
a role in a Nazi massacre of 335 Italian civilians, no one was less
surprised than his longtime neighbors.

        ``Everybody here knew that he was a Nazi, an SS Captain and that
he participated in the massacre,'' said Tomas Buch, a German-born
Bariloche resident. ``He never hid anything.''

        But Priebke's frank public admission last week that he was
present at the 1944 executions outside Rome has caused an uproar
thousands of miles from this town on the edge of the Andes.

        Italian prosecutors in Rome on Monday signed an extradition
order for Priebke, asking Argentina to abide by its extradition
treaty with Italy. And the Simon Wiesenthal Center has asked
Germany to reopen the case, which had been dropped when Priebke
couldn't be found.

        Today, the 80-year-old man accused of crimes against humanity
lives on the top floor of a health clinic specializing in maternity
care. He owns the building and rents the space to the clinic.

        As president of the local German-Argentine cultural association,
Priebke is one of the most visible members of Bariloche's German
community. He has lived here for more than four decades, always
using his real name.

        ``It wasn't any surprise to me,'' neighbor Juan Hoeller said of
Priebke's public admission of his Nazi past. ``Everybody here has
known for years.''

        A 1991 book titled, ``The Painter of Swiss Argentina,'' by
Buch's son, Esteban, stated that Priebke participated in the March
24, 1944, massacre in the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome.

        But the German Embassy in Buenos Aires says it didn't know of
Priebke's Nazi past until he appeared last week on the ABC-TV
program ``Prime Time Live'' saying he was in the caves when the
killings took place.

        The Associated Press went to Priebke's home Saturday to seek an
interview. He opened the door but refused to speak with a reporter
and photographer.

        Dr. Enrique Giron told the official news agency Telam on
Saturday that Priebke was suffering from depression because of
recent events.

        During the 1950s and 1960s, Priebke ran the downtown Vienna
Deli.

        ``We would go there reluctantly,'' Buch said. ``We used to say,
`We're going to the Nazi's deli.' But he had the best cold cuts
around.''

        Bariloche, nestled in the Andean foothills bordering a lake
1,100 miles southwest of Buenos Aires, has a distinct Bavarian
feel.

        In the main plaza, framed by Alpine-style municipal government
buildings, photographers take pictures of tourists posing with a
St. Bernard. A few blocks away is the Hotel Edelweiss, not far from
the Munich Restaurant. Newsstands prominently display a
German-language weekly.

        Several thousand first-, second- and third-generation Germans
live in Bariloche, a town of 80,000 settled in 1895 by a
German-Chilean.

        Priebke is viewed here as a model resident, reserved and
refined. Residents say he speaks Spanish, English, French and
Italian well. At the cultural association's social events, Priebke
and his wife Alicia ``dance and keep dancing,'' said Hoeller, an
Argentine-born hotel owner whose parents emigrated from Germany in
1914.

        By all accounts, Priebke spoke openly of his SS past, but never
expressed sympathy for Nazi ideology or current nationalist
movements.

        Priebke told ABC that he was present in the caves when the
civilians were killed, but that he himself killed no one. He later
told a Buenos Aires radio station that he shot one civilian. He
also said he never deported or killed any Jews.

        However, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, says
he has documents proving that Priebke rounded up Jews in Italy
under orders of Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann, who was captured in
Argentina in 1960, convicted of war crimes in Israel and hanged two
years later.

        Hier says the center has also obtained British documents showing
that Priebke admitted in a POW camp, before he escaped in 1946,
that he shot at least two people in the caves. The massacre was in
reprisal for the killing of 32 German soldiers in Nazi-occupied
Rome.

        Priebke said that as an SS Captain, he had to obey Adolf
Hitler's orders that 10 Italians be killed for every German slain.
The 335 victims included at least 70 Jews, some priests and at
least one 14-year-old boy.

        A block from Priebke's apartment lives Juan Maler, whom the
Wiesenthal Center says is a former Nazi intelligence agent who helped
smuggle Nazis into South America and today helps neo-Nazi groups
throughout South America.  Maler denies all the allegations.

        ``The subject of war criminals here should be looked into
further,'' said Pastor Mendez, a Bariloche journalist.  ``It seems to
me there could be more -- not necessarily Germans, but we also have
large communities of Italians and Croatians that came after the war.''

        But people here are eager to point out that the bulk of the
European immigrants arrived long before Adolf Hitler took power.

        ``That Bariloche was a refuge for Nazis is a known fact
here,'' said Buch.  ``But remember that the German community here goes
back much longer.''

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