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Germany says up to family where to bury Nazi criminal

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Germany said Wednesday it was up to the relatives of Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke what to do with his remains amid a furore over where to bury him.

"I cannot see a responsibility or role for the federal government regarding this question," said a foreign ministry spokesman.

Berlin has received no official request from Rome to receive the body of Priebke, who died in Italy on Friday at age 100, and who had been convicted over the massacre of 335 civilians, the foreign ministry said.

"How to deal with the remains of a German citizen abroad is basically ... a matter for the relatives," said a ministry spokesman.

Priebke's funeral near Rome was cancelled Tuesday amid clashes when neo-Nazi sympathisers tried to stage a rally, and the prefect of Rome later said authorities were "in contact" with Germany.

"There have been some informal contacts on this case, as is usual and also goes without saying, among close partners," the ministry spokesman said.

The coffin of the unrepentant former SS officer was taken to a military airport outside Rome during the night.

The foreign ministry spokesman reiterated that he was unaware of any reason "that should prevent a German citizen who has died abroad from being buried in Germany".

At Priebke's birthplace in the Berlin suburb of Hennigsdorf, local authorities have made clear they will not accept his remains.

"We would refuse a burial for Priebke," a town hall spokeswoman said Monday on Rbb public radio, adding however there had been no official request anyway.

She added that "we don't want to bury a war criminal here" and pointed to a local rule against burials for non-residents.

The region's Jewish community has also expressed its opposition.

Italian police cancelled the funeral staged by a Catholic ultra-conservative sect after clashes when it drew neo-Nazi sympathisers and protesters shouting "Assassin!"

The Holocaust denier provoked outrage even in death with the Vatican issuing an unprecedented order forbidding any Catholic church in Rome from holding his funeral.

Priebke was tried for the Fosse Ardeatine massacre of 335 civilians outside Rome in 1944.

He had been living under house arrest in the Italian capital after being extradited in 1998 from Argentina, where he had fled with a Vatican travel document soon after World War II.

Priebke had wanted to be buried in Argentina next to his wife but the government there earlier said it would not accept the body.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131016/germany-says-family-where-bury-nazi-criminal