Convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke died in Italy on Friday. Preibke was 100. He had been living under house arrest in Rome with his lawyer. The man was tried and convicted for his role in a 1944 civilian massacre in 1995 and was serving a life sentence.
According to Time, Erich Priebke was found guilty of participating in the slaughter of 335 civilians outside Rome. The attack was a response to local resistance forces who had managed to kill 33 Nazi troops in a bomb attack.
The 1944 Rome massacre is considered among one of the worst to take place in Italy during the dark days of World War II. Priebke’s role was significant, as he held the title of second in command at the Gestapo’s Rome headquarters. Describing the incident years later, the Nazi war criminal said that the successful attack from anti-Fascist resistance enraged occupying forces. Adolf Hitler, Preibke claims, personally ordered Nazi forces in Rome to execute 10 Italian citizens for every one German soldier killed.
During the following day Erich Priebke participated in rounding up hundreds of Italian men and boys and taking them by truck to the now infamous Ardeatine Caves. As Washington Post reports, Priebke and other Nazis marched the captors into the cave, five at a time, where they were executed by candlelight.
Erich Priebke was captured by Allied forces after the end of the war. However, he managed to escape from a British prison camp and fled to Argentina in 1946. There he lived a quiet life for nearly five decades, running a small delicatessen. In the early 1990s Priebke was approached by an ABC News crew who asked him about his role in the 1944 massacre at Rome. He did not deny his involvement, saying, “Nobody from us wanted to do that. At that time, an order was an order.”
The interview brought Priebke to the attention of Italian officials who soon had him extradited to Rome where he was convicted as a Nazi war criminal.