Alex Constantine - September 16, 2008
JTA Breaking News
A video appearance at a beauty pageant by convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke has provoked outrage. The organizer of the "Star of the Year" pageant, held last week in a small town near Rome, showed a film clip of the former SS officer, who greeted the audience and wished good luck to contestants.
Priebke, 95, is serving a life sentence under house arrest for his role in the World War II Nazi massacre of 335 Roman men and boys, including 75 Jews.
According to local media, several people in the audience reacted by shouting "for shame!" Local politicians and Jewish representatives quickly condemned the appearance, with some accusing pageant organizer Claudio Marini of using wartime tragedy as a publicity stunt.
"Speculating on the macabre notoriety of a war criminal is really the opposite of a beauty contest," Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper. "And to this is added the cynicism of never considering the pain of the families of the victims."
Marini had prompted sharp criticism earlier in the year when he attempted to name Priebke to the pageant's jury, claiming he was doing so as part of a "peace process."