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Europe

Ex-Nazi Ends Vacation After Protests

A convicted Nazi criminal sentenced for his role in a 1944 massacre near Rome has returned to his house arrest in the Italian capital after outrage over his court-approved vacation in a lake resort town.

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Priebke (left) has been under house arrest since 1999

According to Reuters news service, 92-year-old Erich Priebke cut short a vacation in the village of Cardana di Besozzo near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy after local residents had threatened to stage a protest march against his stay.

"We are happy that he's gone and hope he'll never come back," said Giovanni Martina, a local politician. "Many here have sacrificed their lives fighting for liberty and democracy and against fascism. The presence of this former Nazi officer is an insult to them."

In 1998, Priebke, a former SS officer, was sentenced to life in prison for participating in a 1944 massacre of 335 men and boys at the Adreatine Caves south of Rome. The slaughter is considered the worst war crime in Italy during the Nazi occupation of Rome and was carried out in reprisal for an Italian resistance attack in which 33 German soldiers were killed.

The 92-year-old was placed under house arrest due to his ailing health one year later. But a Roman judge had now allowed him to travel to Lake Maggiore for a summer vacation.

According to left-wing daily La Repubblica, he was currently staying at the home of a German sculptor friend. The house once belonged to Herman Bickler, the head of the Gestapo in Paris between 1943-45.

"A n act of i n justice"

Rome military prosecutor Fulvio Salvatori said he had allowed Priebke to move "temporarily" to Varese, near Milan.

"Priebke asked to spend some time in a different place," Salvatori told the Il Sole 24 Ore station, according to AFP news service. "I see no reason not to grant him a temporary transfer."

The decision had angered Italians, who say Priebke should not be granted leave from his house arrest.

Lago Maggiore in Italien

Italy's Lago Maggiore

"It's an act of injustice," Marco Reguzzoni, president of the lake region, told AGI news agency, according to Reuters. "It isn't any old man. After being a fugitive of justice all his life, he gets house arrest, but giving him holiday on Lake Maggiore is too much."

Priebke spent most of his life in South America and was caught in a town in southern Argentina in 1994.

He has repeatedly managed to make headlines. In 2001, he unsuccessfully demanded a settlement from two journalists, who Priebke claimed had defamed him by calling him "executioner." In 2003, he applied for clemency, but Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi rejected the request.

In July, Rome's police chief Marcello Fulvi banned a march by right-wingers calling for clemency for Priebke.

"The march would have represented an intolerable affront to the Jewish community, to the whole city and to its memory," Fulvi said at the time. "If there is a demonstration, it should be for the victims of the Fosse Ardeatine, and certainly not for their executioner."

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