di Marcello Mento
Rome, July 29 - Protesters opposed to possible birthday celebrations for a convicted Nazi war criminal rallied outside his home Monday with candles lit for hundreds of Eric Priebke's victims. Anger was also expressed over the house arrest of Priebke, who turned 100 on Monday, after his conviction for the 1944 reprisal massacre of 335 men and boys at Rome's Fosse Ardeatine. "He is 100 years old, my grandfather was killed at 28," said one protester. Others called for more Italians to rally against Priebke and what they see as a light sentence for the former German officer sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the Second World War massacre. Some protesters wore the kippah, the headdress of observant religious Jews, while others waved flags bearing the Star of David representing Rome's Jewish community, which suffered heavily during the Second World War. There had been concerns that friends and followers of Priebke, who was extradited from Argentina in 1995, would be allowed to throw a sizable birthday party. However, last week Rome's mayor Ignazio Marino said that he would "personally make sure" that there would be no public celebrations. "No one should celebrate someone responsible for massacres," said Marino. The massacre at the Fosse Ardeatine on Rome's outskirts in March 1944 was carried out in reprisal for a partisan attack that killed 33 German soldiers. In retaliation, for every one German killed, the army seized 10 Italians including civilians as well as numerous political prisoners and Jews who were in custody, with five more also executed. All were shot in a network of caves on the outskirts of Rome, under Priebke's supervision.