Dad rarely spoke about his experience as a POW, except to say that late at night, he and 1-2 others, would sneak out in the darkness of the night, even when everything was covered in snow, to dig up potatoes which may still lay buried to eat. We also know that they were put to work in the harshest conditions, in a nearby foundry or quarry. One of the excepts below verifies that Italian POWs were treated the most harshly, as they were considered traitors by the Germans, and not POWs.
Despite the hardness he endured and his fear, he never lost his humanity, kindness and courage to defend the less fortunate and to stand up to injustices/tyranny – and for this, I am both proud and thankful.
Many years later, after he passed, Dad’s youngest sister (6th of 6 siblings), shared how she was woken up very early one morning and led down to the kitchen, where several people stood around a sickly, emaciated stranger sitting at their kitchen table. Before she could ask what was happening, she realised that it was her older brother, Lorenzo, finally returned from the war. She remembered being both overcome by joy that he was alive and immense fear from seeing how deathly he looked!
Dad was 4th of 6 siblings, and 25 when the war ended, and apparently it was his younger brother (5th of 6) who travelled to Austria, to accompany him home, to Abbateggio, Pescara. This brother was always very protective of Dad, something we often rib Dad about back then, thinking it was strange a younger sibling defended/protected an older brother, but since learning all this, we finally understand why!
Presumably, Dad’s parents were informed by the Red Cross of his survival, and relocation to Austria too. They were instrumental in helping to reconnect survivors with families post-WW2. Many were taken to hospitals post-liberation (possibly make-shift hospitals), and from there, attempts were made to reconnect families – which included talking to survivors and sending letters to their former addresses/families – hoping above all it still existed. Firstly, they would inform families that child/parent/etc was alive, and where they were currently located.
Sadly, we learned much of this after Zio’s (Uncle’s) passing, so were never able to ask him directly, but if I could now, I would thank him, and ask if he accompanied any others home to Abbateggio/ Pescara too!
Excerpt 1: “With the fall of Italy to the Germans in 1943 their one-time allies also arrived as POWs. The huge influx of Italians meant that once more the situation deteriorated. With the exception of the Soviet POWs, the Italians suffered the most deaths in the camps. The Italian camp was situated in the area that is now Heide School – two hut foundations can still be seen in the field behind the RMP station.