The body of convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke lay at a military airport near Rome and its final destination remained unclear on Wednesday, a day after rival groups of protesters forced a suspension of his funeral.
Priebke, a former German SS officer, died aged 100 last week in Rome, where he had been serving a life sentence under house arrest for his role in the killing of 335 civilians in 1944 in caves near the capital, one of Italy’s worst wartime massacres.
Priebke never apologised for his wartime actions.
The mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, said Italian authorities may now seek help from the German government.
“I know that people are considering what decisions to take and I don’t rule out contacts between our government and the government of Germany,” he told state television RAI.
Marino said the body had been brought to the military airport at Pratica di Mare from the town of Albano Laziale, where clashes between angry residents and neo-Nazi visitors prevented the funeral going ahead on Tuesday.
A fringe right-wing group, the Catholic Society of St Pius (SSPX), had organised the funeral despite local protests. The arch-traditionalist SSPX is at odds with mainstream Catholic teaching and has strained relations with the Vatican.
Rome daily Il Messaggero quoted Priebke’s lawyer Paolo Giachini as saying he had ordered the suspension of the funeral after the neo-Nazis attempted to join the service in defiance of an agreement that the ceremony would be private.
Priebke was in charge of SS troops in March 1944 who executed civilians in the Ardeatine Caves in retaliation for the killings of 33 German soldiers by a partisan group.
Adolf Hitler had ordered German occupation forces to respond by executing 10 Italians for every German killed. The victims were rounded up from jails, streets and homes.
Priebke was deported from Argentina to Italy after he was interviewed on U.S. television and admitted his role in the massacre, which he said had been conducted against “terrorists”.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Italy in 1998.