David Travis

Priebke Trial(s)

23 March 1944: Partisans attack German troops in via Rasella. Thirty-three German soldiers die.

24 March 1944: Order received for retaliation. 200 prisoners taken from Regina Coeli prison1 135 prisoners taken from Gestapo prison in via Tasso. Seventy-five Jews are among the prisoners. Driven to the Fosse Ardeatine (an abandoned quarry outside of Rome), all prisoners are killed. Captain Erich Priebke, Gestapo, in charge.

6 May 1994: ABC journalist Sam Donaldson interviews Erich Priebke in Bariloche, Argentina.

7 May 1994: Priebke interview aired on Italian television.

8 May 1994: Priebke is arrested by Argentine police.

9 May 1994: Italy announces its intention to apply for extradition.

August 1995: Italy submits documentation and a formal request for Priebke's extradition.

2 November 1995: Argentina grants Italy's extradition request.

21 November 1995: Priebke arrives in Italy and is placed in the prison at Forte Boccea in Rome.

28 February 1996: Court of Cassation sets a precedent by allowing civil parties

-- the Italian Jewish Communities and the Association of the Families of the Victims of the Fosse Ardeatine - to appear as plaintiffs in a trial held in a Military Tribunal.

24 March 1996: Court of Cassation fully excludes the possibility of hearing the Priebke case in civil court.

3 April 1996: Preliminary hearings begin. Priebke proclaims his innocence, d~~Id[iI1y that he ri~ked hi5 own life if he hadn't followed order3.

8 May 1996: First Priebke trial begins.

10 July 1996: Public Prosecutor Intelisano asks Judges Quistelli and Rocchi to disqualify themselves on the grounds that they expressed an opinion favorable to Priebke's acquittal in 1995. Judge Quistelli rejects this request, and the Appeals Court will confirm this decision a few days later.

15 July 1996: Prosecution case against Priebke closes with demand for a guilty sentence and life imprisonment.

30 July 1996: Appeals Court rejects a second request to disqualify judges

Quistelli and Rocchi, presented by the civil plaintiffs representing the Jewish

Community and the Association of the Families of the Victims of the Fosse


1 August 1996: Military Tribunal declares Priebke "guilty, but not punishable". Priebke is convicted on multiple, first-degree murder charges, but "generic" mitigating and special extenuating circumstances reduce his 30-year jail sentence to zero. The court orders Priebke released. Public protest turns into a siege of the courthouse that lasts for several hours, until after midnight. Neither the judges nor Priebke are safe to leave. Justice Minister Flick arrives at the courthouse at 9pm.

2 August 1996. Priebke is released and then immediately re-arrested, citing an expected request from Germany for his extradition.

5 August 1996: Public demonstration against the sentence in Rome's Piazza Campidogho. Mayor Rutelli turns off the lights on city monuments in protest over the Military Tribunal's decision.

10 August 1996: Priebke's defense attorneys challenge Priebke's second arrest before the Court of Cassation. The arrest will later be upheld.

15 October 1996: Court of Cassation accepts the prosecution and civil plaintiffs' motions to disqualify judges Quistelli and Rocchi. Cancels verdict and sentence and orders a second trial for Priebke.

10 February 1997: Court of Cassation determines that a Military Tribunal will again hear the Priebke trial.

18 March 1997: Despite much protest, Priebke is released from jail and placed under house arrest in a monastery in Frascati (near Rome) while waiting for the trial to begin.

14 April 1997: The second Priebke trial begins.

27 June 1997: Prosecution's case ends with a request for a guilty verdict and life imprisonment.

22 July 1997: Military Tribunal issues its sentence: guilty verdict and jail sentence establishes principle that there are no statute of limitations on "war crimes". Priebke is still convicted on multiple first-degree murder charges, but now sentenced fifteen years in prison (ten years to be pardoned as part of general amnesties offered since 1945; 3 years and four months already served since his arrest in Argentina).

October 1997: Appeal filed.

27 January 1998: Appeal trial begins.

7 March 1998: Appeal trial concludes with a guilty verdict and a sentence of life imprisonment to be served in a military prison.

17 November 1998: Court of Cassation confirms the life imprisonment sentence. A few months later, the prison sentence is converted into "house arrest".