The Urbisaglia Camp

The Urbisaglia Camp

The internment camp of Urbisaglia (Italy), set up at Villa Giustiniani Bandini at the Abbey of Fiastra, came into operation on 16 June 1940.

The Ministry of the Interior sent to Urbisaglia internees for police reasons (anti-fascists and Italian civilians considered dangerous), for war reasons (Slovenians, Dalmatians and Croats suspected of supporting the partisan war) and for racial reasons (German, Polish, former Czechoslovak and former Austrian Jews). In the time it remained operational, the camp of Urbisaglia counted the passage of about 400 people.

The testimony given by the Austrian doctor Paul Pollak states that the internees ‘lived on three floors; on the ground floor there were two halls, on the first floor several large rooms, capable of accommodating up to 16 people and on the second and third floors, which were originally accommodation for servants, there were bedrooms, where only two to five people lived. (…). A beautiful park, well maintained, placed in front of the house, was the joy of the internees, who could walk, rest or work, and even contained a field for the game of bowls. (…). The number of internees was always around one hundred. (…).

Bruno Pincherle (doctor and medical historian, died 1968), who was staying in the attic with a group of other Italian anti-fascists, wrote that the days at the camp were spent in assisting the most unfortunate comrades and in the mutual exchange of Italian, German and English language lessons. Paul Pollak himself gave regular lectures on medical subjects and was allowed to set up an infirmary inside the camp.

Thanks also to the spirit of solidarity that animated the internees, united by uncertainty about their own future and anguish for the fate of their relatives, very few episodes of intolerance occurred in the camp. Jewish internees were not discriminated against and could celebrate the various religious festivals in a room of the palace that was transformed into a synagogue.

The arrivals and departures of the internees at the Urbisaglia camp followed one another until 8 September 1943, the day of the Armistice, when the Director of the Camp invited the inmates to flee. The terror of being captured by the Germans, however, together with the lack of money, documents and knowledge of the places, led many to return to the camp after a few days, also because the Quaestor of Macerata, who ordered the return, guaranteed that civilian internees would have nothing to fear.

Contrary to this, in the following months, the internees of Urbisaglia, along with forty women from the women’s camps in the province of Macerata, were transferred to the concentration camp of Fossoli, in the province of Modena, and from there deported to the German extermination camps.

For further information please see the Bibliography.

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