Missing Pieces: War, Abbateggio and a POW

Stalag Fallingbostel, Germany 1944, "This ceremony is the dividing up of swede peelings - mostly rotten, from the German mess. Each man represents a barrack of 80 prisoners fo war and stands in front of the cardboard box into which their share is put.",

Stalag, Fallingbostel, Germany 1944 This ceremony is the dividing up of swede peelings – mostly rotten, from the German mess. Each man represents a barrack of 80 prisoners fo war and stands in front of the cardboard box into which their share is put.”,


A story by Van, who is a member of the Life In Abruzzo group, about her much-loved father an Italian POW in Nazi Germany, who left Abruzzo in 1950 to live in Australia.

78 years ago today, 16 April 1945, my dad, Lorenzo, and other POWs were liberated from the Nazi concentration camp – Stalag XIB, located in Fallingbostel, Germany.   Apparently, the section of land where Italian POWs were housed, is now Heidi Primary School (photo below).

In 1941 Dad’s battalion – 35th Artillery Regiment – was dispatched to Greece, where they were stationed at various locations including Athens, Kos and lastly, Rhodes, where they were finally captured between 9-11th September 1943. Once captured, they were forced to make the arduous trek to their unknown destination, by ship / on foot / by train (about 2,830 km).

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!

Abbateggio

Abbateggio

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.

By mid-1944 there were some 96,000 POWs in the camps and sub-camps in the Fallingbostel/Oerbke area. The tide of war had changed and the Russian advance into Poland threatened to overrun the POW camps situated there. STALAG 357 was moved from Thorn in Poland to Oerbke, Italian POWs helped to construct a newer compound on the site of the old XID.”   (Read more).
Excerpt:  ‘The Prisoner of War Camp complex at Fallingbostel, Germany housed thousands of prisoners from Britain and other Allied nations. It consisted of several separate camps and was in use from 1939 until its liberation on 16th April 1945.” (Read more).
Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.


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