On October 16, 1943, Kappler issued orders for the Jews of Rome to be rounded up for deportation to the death camps. Five months later, in retaliation for a guerrilla bombing that killed 33 members of the SS, Kappler ordered the summary execution of more than 300 Italian civilians, whom he picked at random.
The victims, with their hands bound behind them, were quietly marched to the outskirts of Rome, whence they were transported in trucks to the Ardeatine Caves at Domatilla. There they were unloaded in batches, placed into the caves, and sprayed with machine-gun fire.
For several hours, Kappler personally supervised the butchery. When the last of the victims had been thrust into the caves, the Nazi officer ordered his underlings to detonate charges that had been placed at the cave entrances, thereby entombing the dead and the still-living, behind several hundred tons of rock.
Among the victims of this atrocity, which came to be known as the Massacre at the Ardeatine Caves, were five members of an underground network organized by Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty.
O'Flaherty was very generous of his time to visitors of Rome and was an enthusiastic tour guide. The Caves were the one place that he did not bring visitors except on one occasion.
In 1947 he brought Veronica Dunne , the Irish singer who was under his guardianship while training in Rome, to the Caves. She recalls his tears flowing during that visit as they knelt on the floor and together recited the Rosary for those who had been murdered.
Richard Burton played the part of Herbert Kappler in the 1973 movie 'Massacre in Rome' , which was about the Ardeatine Caves.