Italy

 

General

    Although Mussolini supported anti-Jewish legislation and racist ideology, he was never in full lock step with Hitler.  Until the armistice with the Allies in September, 1943, the Italian Jewish community was protected from deportation to the Nazi death camps in the east.  With the armistice, Hitler took control of the German occupied territory in the north and began an effort to liquidate the Jewish community under his control.  At the time of the armistice, there were over 44,000 Jews in Italy and Rhodes.  By the end of the war, about 8,000 of these Jews died in German death camps.

    Shortly after the entry of Italy into the war, numerous camps were established for the imprisonment of enemy aliens and Italians suspected to be hostile to the regime.  There was no comparison between the camps in Italy and those set up by the Nazis in Germany and occupied countries. In the Italian camps, families lived together and there was a broad program of social welfare and cultural activities.  After the Italian armistice in 1943, the camps which came under German control became transit centers to death camps in the east.

Italian Camps

    Albania was occupied by Italy in 1940 in order to use it as a base for Italy's unsuccessful invasion of Greece.  During the Italian occupation, various concentration camps were established.   See Albania.

    Arbe was an Italian internment camp near Rijeka, Croatia. From April, 1941, to September, 1943, Rijeka was in the hands of the Italians and called Fiume.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a postcard and cover from an inmate at Arbe to Dobrunje near Ljubljana.  The postcard is dated September 24, 1942 and  the cover is not dated.

     

    Baranello was an internment camp near Campobasso.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a cover postmarked April 3, 1942, from Baranello.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Baranello" in the left frame to return.

    Campagna was an internment camp near Salerno.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a two items from Campagna.  The first item is a postcard to Benno Landes Levy, an inmate at the Campagna internment camp near Salerno.  The second item is a cover to Amsterdam from David Wechselberg, an inmate at Campagna.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Campagna" in the left frame to return.

 

    Casoli was an internment camp near Chieti.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a postcard from Pesaro postmarked December 22, 1941, addressed to Beena Landesberg, an inmate at Casoli.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Casoli" in the left frame to return.

 

 

    Cremona  was one of the internment camps established by the Fascist regime. Below is a thumbnail of a one lira camp currency from Cremona.  Currency from this camp came in two types: with and without a Star of David.  According to Campbell (see References below):

"At least one camp survivor indicates that they were issued based on the internee's religion.  However, many researchers contend that the notes with the Star of David are fantasies that were never used in the camp."

Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Cremona" in the left frame to return.

    Ferramonti Di Tarsia was an internment camp for Jews near Cosenza in Southern Italy and was the largest of the fifteen internment camps established by Mussolini between June and September, 1940. Between June, 1940, and August, 1943 there were 3,823 Jewish internees at Ferramonti. The camp was never a concentration camp in the German sense of the term. Internees were not maltreated, and they were allowed to receive food parcels and visit sick relatives. In addition, there were no mail restrictions. Six weeks after Mussolini's downfall (September, 1943), the internees were released.  Many of these internees joined the Allied armed forces.  About 1,000 were shipped to the United States and interned at Camp Oswego, New York.  Ultimately, they were permitted to stay in the US.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of various items from this camp.  The first item, a postcard from Ferramonti (dated June 11, 1943), is addressed to Geneva, Switzerland. The front of the card contains a double-ring camp-cancel.  The second item, a postcard dated March 4, 1942, is from Ferramonti to the Litzmanstadt Ghetto.  The third item is a cover from Alexander Gross, an inmate at Ferramonti, to Geneva.  The fourth item is a letter dated October 10, 1944, from the Jewish Refugee Center in Bari, Italy, to a Filip Kanner at Ferramonti.  The fifth item is a letter from "Ex-Internment Camp Ferramonti" dated October 24, 1944.  The sixth item is a postcard postmarked July 19, 1941, from Zeist, Holland, to Ph. Kanner to Ferramonti.   The last item is a postcard postmarked Waldenburg (Schlesin) February 2, 1942, to an inmate at Ferramonti.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Ferramonti" in the left frame to return.

       

       

    Finale Emila was a concentration camp for Jews near Modena in northern Italy.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of three postcards.  The first is a postcard from San Marino, postmarked September 30, 1942, to an inmate at Finale Emila.  The second is a postcard from Ljubljana, Slovenia, postmarked August 1, 1943, to an inmate at Finale Emila, Maurizio Levy.  The last is a postcard from Porretta Terme, postmarked August 25, 1943, to an inmate at Finale Emila, Maurizio Levy.

   

    Lipari was a concentration camp located on the Island of Lipari off the Sicilian coast.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of two covers from Lipari postmarked March 29 and 31, 1942, respectively, to Spaleto, Dalmatia (today Split, Croatia).  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Lipari" in the left frame to return.

   

        Malo is a town northwest of Venice which was the site of a civil internment camp during the war.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a cover from Malo postmarked October 31, 1942, to Krakau.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Malo" in the left frame to return. 

 

        Montechiarugolo was an Italian internment camp near Parma.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a cover postmarked July 30, 1942, from the camp at Montechiarugolo to the Red Cross in Geneva.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Montechiarugolo" in the left frame to return.

 

        Ponza was a concentration camp located on the Island of Ponza off the coast of Naples.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of  a three postcards from Ponza to Montenegro, which had been occupied by Italy after the German occupation of Yugoslavia. .  The first is dated February 25, 1943; the second is dated April 8, 1943; and the third is dated July 10, 1943.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Ponza" in the left frame to return. 

     

        Potenza is a town in southern Italy which was the site of a concentration camp.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of three postcards.  The first card id postmarked April 30, 1942.  This postcard is part of a set of 13 postcards mailed between January 22, 1942, and August 22, 1942, from Berlin by Alex Israel Seelig to Federico Wahl, an inmate at the camp at Potenza, Italy. Each card bears Berlin postmarks, censor markings and the double-ring camp cancel with coat of arms of Potenza.  The second card, addressed to Hilda Wahl,  is from Berlin to Potenza and is postmarked August 6, 1940. The third card, addressed to Hilda Wahl,  is from Berlin to Potenza and is postmarked October 26, 1942.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Ponza" in the left frame to return. 

     

        Rhodes (Island) was under the control of Italy from 1912 until the German occupation in September, 1943.  It appears that most of the internees on Rhodes were survivors of the shipwreck of the the Pentcho.  The Pentcho was a paddle steamer which was purchased by Betar, the Zionist youth movement.  The ship arrived in Bratislava in May, 1940.  On May 16, 1940, it was boarded by some 400 Czechoslovakian young men and women.  It made its way down the Danube to Bezdan, Yugoslovia, where it waited two weeks for an additional 100 passengers, mostly German Jewish refugees who had visas to Paraguay  For two months, the Romanian authorities refused to allow the ship to proceed outside of Yugoslavian waters.  Finally, the Yugoslavian authorities provided an escort to accompany to Vidin, Bulgaria.  After a journey of four months, the ship reached the Black Sea.port of Sulina.  The British Counsel in Sulina advised the Captain that the ship could not go to Palestine.  After being denied access to Turkish waters, the ship sailed to the Greek port of Piraeus.  After leaving Piraeus, the ship, on October 9, 1940, suffered a burst in the boiler and was shipwrecked on the uninhabited Island of Kamila which was under Italian control.  After lighting fires for a week, the survivors were discovered by a low flying plane, and shortly thereafter a ship arrived and took the survivors to the Island of Rhodes.  They were interned there until early 1942 and then transferred to Camp Ferramonti (see above).  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of three postcards to survivors of the Pentcho and an official document from the camp at Rhodes.  The first postcard is from Bratislava, Slovakia, to Alfred Grunsfeld at Camp San Giovanni on the Island of Rhodes. The postcard is from S. Steiner and is postmarked December 30, 1941. The second postcard is from Bochnia, Poland, to Cyla Degen at Camp San Giovanni.  The card is from her mother and is postmarked May 2, 1941.  The third postcard is from Bochnia, Poland, to Baruch Degen addressed to the wrecked ship Pentcho.  The card was readdressed to Camp Ferramonti (see above).  The card is from his mother and is postmarked January 31, 1942.  The last item is a certificate signed by the Camp Commander certifying that E. Grunbaunz, born on April 8, 1921, in Czechoslovakia, has been at the Rhodes internment camp from October 21, 1940, after being captured by the Italian Navy.  This certificate was to help him receive an exit permit.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Rhodes" in the left frame to return. 

     

        Sepino was an Italian internment camp near Campobasso.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a postcard dated June 29, 1942, from an inmate at Sepino, Izzy Kahzberger, addressed to a Jewish old age home in Vienna. The card bears Italian and German censor markings.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Sepino" in the left frame to return.

 

        Treviso, a town in northern Italy, was the site of an Italian internment camp.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a postcard dated July 16, 1942, from the province of Lubiana to an inmate at Treviso.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Treviso" in the left frame to return.

 

        Urbisaglia was one of the concentration camps established by the Fascist regime.  Below are thumbnails of two items from this camp.  The first is the front and back of a cover postmarked May 20, 1941, from Urbisaglia to Vienna.  The second is the front and back of a postcard from Urbisaglia to the Judenrat in Litzmannstadt dated March 27, 1942.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Ponza" in the left frame to return. 

     

        Vestone, a town in northern Italy, was the site of an Italian internment camp.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a postcard dated May 4, 1942, to an inmate at Vestone.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Vestone" in the left frame to return. 

 

        Vinchiaturo was an Italian internment camp near Campobasso.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a postcard postmarked January 1, 1942, to an inmate at Vinchiaturo.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Vinchiaturo" in the left frame to return.

 

        Visco, a town between Treviso and Trieste, was the site of an Italian internment camp. Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a postcard dated April 20, 1943, from an inmate at Visco to Grosuplje near Ljubljana.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Visco" in the left frame to return.

 

POW Mail

    In April, 1942, Brazil, as the protecting power, arranged an agreement between Italy and Great Britain with regard to P.O.W. Mail. There were four different air routes: (1) Rome-Lisbon for mail to Great Britain; (2) Rome-Lisbon-New York for mail to Australia, New Zealand, Jamiaca and the West Indies; (3) Chiasso-Sofia-Jerusalem for mail to Africa and Palestine; and (4) Chiasso-Sofia-Baghdad for mail to British India. Letters to prisoners of war had to bear the name of the air route. All letters were sent to Rome for censor review and then to the Rome Foreign Post Office. Most mail was sent via the routes originating in Chiasso which is a small town on the Swiss-Italian border. The town straddles both countries (Ponte Chiasso in Italy and Chiasso in Switzerland). The prisoner mail received in Italian Chiasso would be transferred to Swiss Chiasso. From there, the mail would go by train to Sofia, air to Istanbul, train to Jerusalem, and BOAC air to Cairo for forwarding to the various destinations. By December, 1942, the British postal authorities recommended that it would be more efficient to have the exchange take place at Adana, Turkey, and then by BOAC air to Cairo. This route was labeled as the Sofia-Istanbul route.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of five items pertaining to the Chiasso-Sofia-Jerusalem route.  The first item is a cover from Taviano, Italy dated May 1, 1942, with a cachet which reads "Posta Aerea Per Prigionieri Di GUERRA/CHIASSO-SOFIA-GERUSALEMME" in a box and Italian and British censor marks.  This is the earliest date known.  The cover is addressed to a POW interned at a camp in south Africa.  It was common for both Italian and British censors to remove stamps to protect against secret messages hidden under them.  The second item is a cover from Padule, Italy, dated July 7, 1942, with a cachet which reads "Posta Aerea Per Prigionieri Di GUERRA VIA SOFIA-GERUSALEMME" in a box and Italian and British censor marks. The cover is addressed to a POW interned at a camp in south Africa.  The third item is a cover postmarked September 3, 1942, with a hand written route instruction.  The cover is addressed to a POW interned at a camp in East Africa.  The fourth item is a postcard dated November 7, 1942, from a British POW interned in Italy to East London, South Africa.  The card bears a hand written route instruction.  The last item is a cover addressed to an Italian POW at a camp in Asmara, Eirtrea.  The cover is postmarked June 30, 1943, and has a hand written route instruction.  On the front of the cover is a cachet reading "AL MITTENTE/PER SERVIZIO SOSPESO" (Return to Sender/Service Suspended).  This cover is proof that the Chiasso-Sofia-Jerusalem route was closed as of this date.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "POW Mail" in the left frame to return.

   

 

 

References

Gutman, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, P. 720-30

Zuccotti, The Italians and the Holocaust

Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, P. 660-679

Lance K. Campbell, Prisoner of War and Concentration Camp Money of the 20th Century, P. 148 (1993)

Freidberg, An Account of the S.S. Pentcho and the Italian Internment Camps at Rhodes and Ferramonti, The Israel Philatelist, Vol. XV No. 8 and 9, P. 1142-47 (1964)

Kaplan, Italian P.O.W Mail-- The Chiasso-Sofia-Jerusalem Route, The Israel Philatelist, Vol. XXXIII No. 5/6, P. 2847-49 (June,1982)

Collins, Chiasso-Sofia-Jerusalem Mail Route 1942-43, The Israel Philatelist, Vol. XXXVIII No. 11/2, P. 5305-09 (December,1987)

Collins, Mail to a Jewish Internee in Rhodes 1941, The Israel Philatelist, Vol. XXXIX No. 7/8, P. 5469 (August,1988)

Collins, Chiasso-Sofia-Jerusalem P.O.W. Airmail Route 1942-43, The Israel Philatelist, Vol. XLIII No. 4/5, P. 6480-84 (June,1992)

Rosedale, Chiasso-Sofia-Jerusalem P.O.W. Airmail Route 1942 Additional Covers, The Israel Philatelist, Vol. XLIII No. 7/8, P. 6524-25 (August,1992)

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