"It's an absolute disgrace, people forget," Leone Sonnino, an 80-year-old Jewish man, said. "People say 'It's enough now'. Enough for what? Nothing should be enough, there can never be enough grief."

Leone Paserman, the president of Rome's Jewish community, questioned why the court believed Priebke was too old to be kept in a prison, but not too old to work.
   
"They should abolish life sentences if not even those who have committed crimes against humanity have to serve them," he said.

Certain benefits

Priebke had arrived at the office on the back of a scooter driven by Paolo Giachini, his lawyer, ahead of the protesters.

The lawyer says the war criminal will use his knowledge of German, Spanish, English and French to do translations and clerical work at his office.

Jewish protesters shouted "Murderer!"
outside Priebke's workplace [EPA]
"The law says that after a period in prison inmates have the right to certain benefits, because detention here in Italy isn't just punitive, it tries to re-educate those who have been condemned," Giachini said.

But the military court's ruling has been criticised by Italian politicians and by Nazi hunters at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, who said it "insults the family and friends of those murdered by Priebke and his cohorts".

Walter Veltroni, Rome's mayor, has expressed his solidarity with "all the victims of Nazi fascist barbarianism, their families and the Jewish community".
   
"Rome cannot forget," he said.

The Ardeatine Cave killings were in reprisal for a partisan attack on German soldiers and many of the victims were taken from Rome's ancient Jewish ghetto.

Priebke admitted participating in the murders but said he was obeying orders on pain of death. He was extradited to Italy in 1995 from Argentina, where he fled after the war and worked for decades as a schoolteacher.