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Interned Without Cause, by Peter Krawchuk

12. THE ITALIANS

A second group in the camp was comprised of Italians who had been interned in June, 1940, after Benito Mussolini dragged Italy into the war on the side of Nazi Germany. The Italian group was made up of some 40 men, almost as many as us. Among them there were only a few ardent fascists (particularly from Vancouver) who belonged to an organization, subscribed to fascist newspapers and magazines, supported Mussolini and travelled to Italy in official delegations. The majority of them was made up of small-time upstarts, charlatans, gamblers, ruffians and the owners of cheap hotels. True, this was a receptive element for fascist propaganda. As far as I know, in the entire group there were only two workers a miner from Coleman, Alberta, and a railway worker from Saskatchewan, Carlo Roggiani. It should be noted the Carlo Roggiani was a fervent antifascist and the entire time supported our group. He had been arrested on a false accusation that he had been spreading fascist propaganda.

A. Fabbri, a lawyer from Vancouver, represented the Italians in dealings with the camp administration. He was an unofficial camp spokesman. The Italians lived in the same barracks as the Germans and antifascists.

Generally speaking, the Italians were not interested in politics. They did not enter into discussions, arguments or fights. In their free time they passionately played cards and loudly argued over the winners or losers. Just a few Italian fascists ensconced themselves in the canteen and raised toasts of lemonade to Il Duce Mussolini and the "great Italian empire".

From the beginning the Germans treated their allies coldly. They laughed at them, pushed them around, and sent them to do the worst and dirtiest jobs. The following incident of the Germans working together with the Italians can be cited as an example. One time the camp administration requested from the camp spokesman a certain number of prisoners for cleaning the soldiers' latrines. At first the Germans wanted to make the antifascists do it. We agreed to do this task on the condition that, for every five antifascists, five Germans and Italians would go. To resolve this "problem" the Germans made their Italian allies do the work. Without any objection the Italians took the buckets and scoops and, singing a happy song, cleaned the soldiers' latrines.

The Nazis particularly hated the Italians in the spring of 1941, when Mussolini attacked Greece and suffered a great defeat. The Greeks not only drove out the Italian invaders but also began to smash them in Albania. In addition to this the English began to beat the Italian army severely in Libya, taking thousands of prisoners.

The Germans always made a show of their "racial superiority" by considering the Italians in the concentration camp as their vassals. The Italians regarded us indifferently. They never entered into arguments or conflicts with us. They always maintained a separate group. Besides playing cards they amused themselves with traditional Italian games.

True, in the Petawawa concentration camp where we were later transferred, there were several hundred interned Italians, a significant number of whom were ardent fascists from Toronto and, particularly, from Montreal.

Continued...

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