Arrivel of a transport of Italian Military Internees at Stalag III B, Picture: private

Between two Stools
The History of the Italian military internees 1943-1945


from November, 29th 2016


Only military allies, then alleged "traitors": By the autumn of 1943 German and Italian soldiers fighting together on the fronts of World War II. But on 8 September 1943, the Italian Government under Marshal Pietro Badoglio terminated this alliance. The reaction of the German side followed immediately: Within a few days the Wehrmacht took many Italian soldiers prisoner. Around 600,000 to 650,000 were deported as a so-called military internees to the German Reich and the occupied Poland. Many had there forced labor in the armaments industry, making mining and agriculture. Overall, about 50,000 to 60,000 died from the consequences of their captivity.

From the outset, the Italian military internees were "between two stools". Many German wanted to punish the "traitors" hard and at the same time exploit their labor for their "total war economy". S
imultaneously German organizations and the fascist Mussolini regime in northern Italy wanted to attract further to a continuation of the armed struggle for the "final victory": So some military internees were given a certain freedom of choice, for or against a further fighting on the German side, or to remain in captivity. Other groups of prisoners and  forced laborers in the camps saw the former allies of the Germans often hostile and suspicious: They considered them as opponents. Even after their release and return the fate of military internees was largely ignored: In the Italian post-war society, they were far from being recognized as victims group. The German side did not compensated them to this day.

This permanent exhibition will document the history of this group of victims, of which little is known. So it takes on a recommendation by the German and Italian governments appointed Italo-German Historical Commission from 2012. The exhibition is funded by the Foreign Office of Germany.

ITALIANO