ROME (RNS) Controversial former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi likened his legal problems to the Holocaust just as an Italian newspaper revealed Thursday (Nov. 7) that unrepentant Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke had finally been buried in a secret grave near Rome.
The 77-year-old Berlusconi, a billionaire media tycoon and three-time prime minister, has been hounded by legal problems for the last two decades.
In August, he was convicted of tax evasion in Italy’s Supreme Court, and he is appealing or facing an array of other charges, including using illegal wiretaps, bribery, abuse of power and paying a minor for sex.
On Wednesday, he was back in the headlines for comparing his legal issues to the Holocaust. “My children now say they know what Jewish families felt like under Hitler,” Berlusconi said.
His statements were the latest in a string of recent incidents that brought the Holocaust and Nazi Germany out of the history books and onto the front pages of Italian media.
La Repubblica reported Thursday that Priebke, who died last month at age 100, had been discreetly buried in a prison cemetery, his grave marked by a small wooden cross bearing only a number.
In 1998, the former SS captain was convicted of helping execute 335 Italians, including at least 70 Jews, during World War II. He had been held under house arrest in Rome for 15 years, but he never apologized for his actions.
His death sparked protests from Jewish groups and an order from the Vatican prohibiting churches from conducting his funeral. A Catholic splinter group, the Society of St. Pius X, eventually held a low-key funeral near Rome, but protesters prevented Priebke’s family from attending.
Priebke’s coffin had been stored at a military airbase before burial, and his final location was kept secret to avoid it becoming a rallying point for neo-Nazi groups, according to La Repubblica.
“The grave is on the only piece of Italian land where Priebke’s death can go back to simply being someone’s death and not a case of Nazi symbolism,” the article said.
KRE/MG END LYMAN