BERLIN, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Authorities in the hometown of a Nazi war criminal are trying to block any attempt to bury him there following opposition to a funeral for him in Argentina and in Rome, where he died last week at the age of 100.
German former SS officer Erich Priebke had been serving a life sentence under house arrest for his role in the killing of 335 civilians in 1944 in caves near Rome, one of Italy's worst wartime massacres. He never apologised.
Speculation grew that his body might be brought to his birthplace of Hennigsdorf near Berlin after authorities in the Italian capital spoke out against a funeral there.
But fearing his grave could become a pilgrimage site for German neo-Nazis, officials in the small town quickly raised objections.
About 40 neo-Nazis, some wearing Priebke masks, held an unauthorised torchlit ceremony in Hennigsdorf last year to mark the SS officer's 99th birthday.
The Berliner Kurier newspaper splashed a photograph on its front page of a smiling young Priebke in a black SS uniform under the headline "Nazi corpse? No thanks!".
"We don't have to bury Priebke in Hennigsdorf and we will not do it," a town hall spokeswoman told Reuters, adding that as there was no evidence that members of his family were buried there, the town had no obligation to take him.
She said the town had not been approached about a funeral.
In March 1944, Priebke was in charge of SS troops who executed civilians in the Ardeatine Caves in retaliation for the killings of 33 German soldiers by a partisan group.
Adolf Hitler had ordered occupation forces to respond within 24 hours by executing 10 Italians for every German killed. The victims were rounded up from jails, streets and their homes to the caves.
After the war Priebke escaped to Argentina but was deported to Italy after he was interviewed on U.S. television and admitted to his role in the massacre, which he said had been conducted against "terrorists".
He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1998 in Italy for his role in the killings.
His lawyer told Reuters on Sunday the family would ask to have a burial in Rome as soon as practically possible but the centre-left mayor of the Italian capital objected, saying it would be an insult for Priebke to be buried in the city.
The Argentine government has also refused to allow his body to be returned and buried next to his wife. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by John Stonestreet)