After the armistice between Italy and the Allies, on September 8th, 1943, the Germans started  a carefully planned action to take over Italy’s armed forces, resources and territory. There were a large set of atrocities, without any war declaration; the most know are the massacre of the “Acqui” division at Kefalonia and the attack to the Italian Fleet, with the loss of RN Roma battleship.

I share here a document that has some historical significance: the “illustrated diary” of about 600,000 Italian soldiers captured by the Germans (military internment, as hypocritically the Germans called it), by A. Berretti with foreword by Guareschi. The title means: “Beware of the wire!”.

Text is in Italian, French, English, and some sketches of war prisoners belong to different nationalities.

Italy, after losing the war in the colonies in the process of being occupied by the Allies and under increasingly destructive bombings of the towns, signs the armistice. Italy’s former ally, Germany, as if Italy were not a sovereign state but a rebel colony, proceeds to take over the Italian territory, to disarm the troops scattered all over Europe (the Balkans in particular) and to act fiercely against those who resist and execute the orders of the Italian Government.

Nearly two years of prison camps were awaiting Italians from all Armies, in harsh conditions, with lack of food, clothes, hygiene and parcels of the Red Cross (which were a right for war prisoners but not for the IMI, Italienische Militär-Internierte, as Hitler pretended they were called).
They were exposed to the constant propaganda of the Nazis and fascists to convince them to adhere to the fascist republic of Salò: it would have been a simple solution to return home, indeed, perhaps to flee soon after and be saved from a life of hardships. Very few joined, faithful, according to what my father said, to the oath given to the King and Italy; many died in the camps (from 35.000 to 70.000). Most of the troops, but not the officers, were used as labour force.
Their return was forgotten; they were soldiers, but had made war on the wrong side and there was the myth, largely political, that the liberation was accomplished by the partisans (many of them being militaries
escaped from the Germans, too): they constituted anyway the generation who rebuilt Italy. 

My father, lieutenant of corps of engineers, on the night between 7 and 8 September was in service with six men at Bolzano’s city hall (total armament: a hand gun and six rifles). During the night, he lost telephone contact with his command (already captured by the Germans). At 6 AM a German squad, following a tank and several machine guns, demanded their surrender. My father, after verifying the impossibility of any resistance, and after consulting his men accepted. He was taken on a train (passengers, as required by international conventions, from Bolzano to Innsbruck: from there on, stockers). A long odyssey between Germany, Poland and Russia started: at the end, he was freed by Canadian troops, who, given the conditions of the camp prisoners, cleared out a nearby village and transferred them there in order to begin a recovery towards life. Two years after being returned to Italy, people still gave him their seats on the tram, for his exceptional thinness.

Hope the attached text allows us to understand, first-person, what war actually is.



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