SS officer calls Italy massacre tiny detail

ROME — Former Nazi SS Capt. Erich Priebke considers the March 1944 massacre of 335 Italian men and boys a small detail of war.

"The Ardeatine Caves were terrible for the Jew. But for me it was something small that was lost among everything else — the bombings, Dresden, Hiroshima, my dead, the lost war, beginning again from nothing," Priebke said Saturday in an interview with the Rome daily Il Messaggero.

"I was a soldier. I never thought it was a crime," he said.

Priebke, 83, is under house arrest in a monastery near Rome during a second trial for his involvement in the Ardeatine Cave massacre.

He has admitted taking part in the mass execution, which was ordered by the Nazis in reprisal for an attack by the Italian resistance in downtown Rome that had killed 33 German soldiers the day before.

Last August, a military court ruled Priebke guilty of participation in the massacre but said he could not be punished for it because of extenuating circumstances and a statute of limitations.

The verdict sparked an uproar in Italy and Priebke was rearrested. It was quashed on appeal in October, and Priebke went on trial a second time before a new military tribunal in April.

The massacre is considered the worst Nazi atrocity to have been carried out on Italian soil. Of the victims, 75 were Jews.