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Rab concentration camp

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Rab concentration camp (Italian: Campo di concentramento per internati civili di Guerra – Arbe; Croatian: Koncentracijski logor Rab; Slovene: Koncentracijsko taborišče Rab) was one of the several Italian concentration camps. It was established during World War II, in July 1942, on the Italian-occupied island of Rab (now in Croatia).

According to historians James Walston[1] and Carlo Spartaco Capogeco,[2] at 18%, the annual mortality rate in the camp was higher than the average mortality rate in the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald (15%). According to a report by Monsignor Jože Srebrnič, Bishop of Krk on 5 August 1943 to Pope Pius XII: "witnesses, who took part in the burials, state unequivocally that the number of the dead totals at least 3500".[2] However, other sources place the figure at around 2,000.[3]

In July 1943, after the fall of the Fascist regime in Italy, the camp was closed, but some of the remaining Jewish internees were deported by German forces to the extermination camp at Auschwitz. Yugoslavia, Greece and Ethiopia requested the extradition of some 1,200 Italian war criminals, who, however, were never brought before an appropriate tribunal because the British government, at the beginning of the Cold War, saw in Pietro Badoglio a guarantor of an anti-communist post-war Italy.[4]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Liberators and Survivors: The First Moments
  • ✪ Fascist concentration camp on Rab, Croatia - Memorial plaque
  • ✪ Italian Fascist Concentration Camp at Visco
  • ✪ Koncentracijsko taborišče / Koncentracijski logor KAMPOR na otoku Rabu - Dokumentarni Film
  • ✪ Koncentracijsko taborišče Rižarna - Risiera di San Sabba


A man came up to us and said, "There's a factory about a mile down the road "and you will find a lot of Jewish women in there "that were dropped there, "and the SS is guarding them." We opened this shed, we went in there... (STIFLES SOB) Though fighting still raged in the Pacific theater, World War II in Europe officially ended with Germany's unconditional surrender on May 8th, 1945. (EXPLOSION) Allied armed forces advanced across Europe in the war's final stages, relentlessly pursuing the retreating German army. As they did, they stumbled onto camps, often accidentally, that had been established and run by the Nazis and their local collaborators. The Soviet army, advancing from the east, liberated Nazi camps in Poland including Majdanek and Auschwitz. The British and Canadians, advancing from the west, liberated Bergen Belsen and camps in northern Germany. The Americans, our focus here, liberated Dachau, Buchenwald, and other camps. As their armies advanced across Europe, the Allies found thousands of people imprisoned in camps. They encountered piles of corpses, and thousands of skeletal prisoners on the verge of death from malnutrition and disease. This was their first encounter with the horror of what would come to be known as the Holocaust. They began to understand that the Nazis had committed atrocities against civilians, the vast majority of them Jews, on an unimaginable scale, and that these atrocities were very different from the deaths caused by conventional warfare. A new category of crime had to be recognized to describe the intentional attempt to destroy a people. This crime came to be known as "genocide." The soldiers were the very first outside witnesses of the Holocaust - an unprecedented case of genocide. The testimonies of the first soldiers who entered the camps, known as the "liberators", are important eyewitness accounts of the mass atrocities committed against the Jews of Europe by the Nazis and their collaborators. Hardened combat veterans, the American G.I.s were used to death; many had been fighting for years. But they had never seen killings of civilians on the massive scale they discovered. Their first encounters with Holocaust survivors at this unique moment in time give us an essential and intensely human perspective on the difference between military war and genocide. Leon Bass was 20 years old, and was among the first US soldiers to arrive at Buchenwald. I can never forget that day, because when I walked through that gate I saw in front of me what I call the walking dead. I saw human beings, human beings that had been beaten, they'd been starved, they'd been tortured, they'd been denied everything. They had skeletal faces with deep-set eyes. Their heads had been clean shaven. They were standing there and they were holding on to one another just to keep from falling. I saw the clothing of little children - the little children that didn't survive. Up against the wall, there were mounds of clothing. I saw the caps, sweaters, the stockings, the shoes, but I never saw a child. Harry Mogan was a Jewish refugee from Nazi persecution. He reached the United States and became a soldier and a liberator. And...and you saw women on... on the floor, on... on wooden pallets. When I say women - you saw skeletons. Rags hanging on them, no shoes. Bones instead of faces. And the stench was so horrible... It's hard to describe. (VOICE BREAKS) What the American soldiers found at Ohrdruf, a subcamp of Buchenwald, was so grisly that General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, together with Generals Patton and Bradley, arrived to inspect the camp for themselves. After his visit, Eisenhower cabled: "The things I saw beggar description. [...] "The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, "cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering "as to leave me a bit sick. [...] "I made the visit deliberately, "in order to be in a position "to give first-hand evidence of these things "if ever, in the future, "there develops a tendency "to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.'" These words are now engraved on the wall of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Eisenhower's eyewitness testimony reveals that what he saw at Ohrdruf left a powerful impression. Eisenhower foresaw the problem of disbelief that could fuel the denial of atrocities committed by the Nazis and their collaborators. He emphasized that he purposely witnessed these horrors so that no one would later be able to deny what he saw with his own eyes. Eisenhower was convinced that the world needed to know. He made sure that members of Congress and journalists were brought to see the camp. He had all nearby soldiers whose units were not on the front lines visit as well, writing: "We are told the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. "Now at least, he will know what he is fighting against." US Army Staff Sergeant Horace Evers was among the first Allied soldiers to enter Adolf Hitler's abandoned Munich quarters. He discovered Hitler's personal stationery. He crossed out "Adolf Hitler", inserted his own name, and wrote a letter home about the camp he had seen just outside of Munich. "Dearest Mom and Lou, [...] "A railroad runs alongside the camp "and as we walked toward the boxcars on the track "I thought of some of the stories I previously had read about Dachau "and was glad of the chance to see for myself just to prove once and for all "that what I had heard was propaganda. "- But no it wasn't propaganda at all - "if anything - some of the truth had been held back. "In two years of combat you can imagine I have seen a lot of death, "furious deaths mostly. "But nothing has ever stirred me as much as this. [...] "The first boxcar I came to had about 30 what were once humans in it. "Bodies on top of each other - no telling how many. [...] "And then into the camp itself. Filthy barracks. [...] "How can people do things like that? "I never believed they could... "until now." As American troops approached Dachau, they saw ghastly evidence of recent mass prisoner executions. Anger led some to shoot SS guards still at the camp. But Dachau not only fueled their rage, it also aroused their compassion. Paul Parks was a 22 year-old American soldier from Indianapolis, who witnessed Dachau after liberation. These people came out of these barracks-like buildings with their striped uniforms on and... just in devastating shape. One of the fellas came out who spoke English. And he said, "Are you Americans?" and I said, "Yes." He said, "Thank God!" and he hit the ground and started to pray. Who were the people that these soldiers found? They were the victims of Nazi ideology and hatred. The Jews among them had managed to survive the Holocaust, whose goal was total annihilation. Other prisoners, including Roma, homosexuals and communists, had managed to survive persecution and murder. For many, liberation came too late. Hundreds continued to die every day of starvation, exhaustion, and disease. But for others, the soldiers were larger than life. They represented the moment of salvation that many survivors had despaired they might not live to see. Helen Greenbaum survived imprisonment in the Warsaw ghetto, forced labor at a number of camps including Majdanek and Ravensbruck, and a death march to Dachau were she was finally liberated. They opened all the gates and we started, some on all four, because they let us know that the soldiers are coming. And we went out to greet the American soldiers and we dropped to their feet and we kissed their boots. They, some of them that couldn't walk, they were just crawling, they [the soldiers] picked up and carried them into the camp. Some of the soldiers broke down and cried at the sight of the survivors. Many made the conscious decision to put their military objectives temporarily on hold in order to care for the broken and dying prisoners that they found. In most cases, the liberators treated them with sympathy and kindness. After the Germans had mercilessly stripped them of their dignity, the liberators were the first to restore their humanity. Anton Mason was about 18 when he was liberated by American soldiers at Buchenwald. He had survived Auschwitz, where most of his family was murdered. I found out my father was dead and I was truly at the end of my rope. I said, "I don't know if I can go on." But there is something that is just impossible to explain. I just decided that... I'm not gonna give up - I'm gonna try. And then, out of no place (LAUGHS) on April 11th the Americans arrived. I couldn't believe it! I couldn't believe it! I said, "How is this possible?" I walked over to a G.I. and... young guy, and I asked him if he could give me some food. I was very hungry. So he took out, he gave me a Nestle bar and he gave me a gold... a little gold envelope, it said Nescafe, I didn't know what it was. (LAUGHS) So he gave me a little food. Now, you know how much that food was worth? He could have gotten anything for it in Weimar! But he gave it to me. Solly Ganor lay half-dead in the snow after a death march from Dachau. He remembers the unshaven, tired soldier who knelt down, gently touched him on the shoulder and said, "You're free boy. You're free now." Solly was surprised by the soldier's Japanese features. His liberator, Clarence Matsumura, was a member of a segregated regiment of Nisei soldiers - American children of Japanese immigrants. Clarence smiled at Solly - a smile that's stayed with him ever since. Solly has called Clarence his angel. Ironically, African-American G.I.s like Paul Parks and Leon Bass, and Japanese-Americans like Clarence Matsumura, served in segregated units in the US army. They fought for freedom and democracy despite facing discrimination at home and within the army. Nisei soldiers celebrated the survivors' freedom even though racial tension and fear during the war had caused many of their own families to be interned in camps in the US. For countless survivors of the Holocaust that first contact with the liberators was the moment they began to feel safe after years of fear, loss, and rupture. But for many, liberation was the saddest moment of their lives. It was the moment they realized they were completely alone in the world. For many liberators, their first contact with the survivors was a powerful moment of insight. Trained to wage war, many chose to suspend their military missions for the humanitarian mission of giving care and respect to the survivors. The experiences of the survivors and the liberators moved many to become a moral voice, sharing their stories. I've been trying to give testimony for a long time, by just going around and speaking to people. And I think it's important that I speak about what I saw and that others speak about what they saw. Are we looking for credit? No. No one's looking for credit. No one wants a pat on the back. All we want to do is say - will this be prevented from happening again? That's the most basic thing.


Establishment of the camp

Italian flag over the Rab concentration camp.
Italian flag over the Rab concentration camp.
Number of Slovene and Croatian inmates
/ Total / Men / Women / Children
in hundreds
27–31 July 1942   Total
1–15 August 1942   Total
16–31 August 1942   Total
1–15 September 1942   Total
16–30 September 1942   Total
1–15 October 1942   Total
16–30 October 1942   Total
1–15 November 1942   Total
16–27 November 1942   Total
Davide Rodogno (2003) Il nuovo ordine mediterraneo, Bollati Boringhieri, Turin.

Under the Italian army commander Mario Roatta's watch the ethnic cleansing and the violence committed against the Slovene civilian population easily matched that of the Germans[5] with the summary executions, hostage-taking and hostage killing, reprisals, internments (both in Rab and at the Gonars concentration camp), and burning houses and villages. Additional special instructions which included the instruction that the orders must be "carried out most energetically and without any false compassion" were issued by Roatta:[6]

"(...) if necessary don't shy away from using cruelty. It must be a complete cleansing. We need to intern all the inhabitants and put Italian families in their place."[7]

Roatta in his Circolare No.3 "issued orders to kill hostages, demolish houses and whole villages: his idea was to deport all inhabitants of Slovenia and replace them with Italian settlers" in the Province of Ljubljana, in response to Slovene partisans' resistance in the province.[8]

Following Roatta's orders, one of his soldiers in his July 1, 1942 letter wrote home:

"We have destroyed everything from top to bottom without sparing the innocent. We kill entire families every night, beating them to death or shooting them."[9]

Roessmann Uroš, one of the Rab internees, a student at the time, remembers:

"There were frequent razzias when the train taking us to school in Ljubljana from our village of Polje pulled in to the main station. Italian soldiers picked us all up. Some were released, and others were sent to (Italian) concentration camps. Nobody knew who decided, or on what grounds.[10]

The camp at Rab, built near the village of Kampor, was one of a number of such camps established along the Adriatic coast to accommodate Slovenian and Croatian prisoners. Opened in July 1942, it was officially termed "Camp for the concentration and internment of war civilians - Rab" (Campo di concentramento per internati civili di Guerra – Arbe).[11]

Inmates and camp conditions

Dead inmates at the Rab concentration camp. Source: Rabski Zbornik, 1953.[12]
Dead inmates at the Rab concentration camp. Source: Rabski Zbornik, 1953.[12]

Slovenes and Croatians, many of whom were women and children, including pregnant women and newborns, suffered from cold and hunger in open-air tents, surrounded by barbed wire fence and guard towers. At its peak there were up to 15,000 internees[13][14]

Male inmate at the Rab concentration camp.
Male inmate at the Rab concentration camp.

Conditions at the camp were described as appalling: "filthy, muddy, overcrowded and swarming with insects". Slovene writer Metod Milač, an inmate at the camp, described in his memoirs how prisoners were quartered six to a tent and slowly starved to death on a daily diet of thin soup, a few grains of rice and small pieces of bread. Prisoners fought with each other for access to the camp's meager water supply, a single barrel, while many became infested with lice and wracked with dysentery caused by the unhygienic conditions. Part of the encampment was washed away by flash flooding.[10]

Some Italian authorities eventually acknowledged that the treatment of the inmates was counterproductive; in January 1943, the commanding officer of the 14th Battalion of Carabinieri complained:

"In the last few days some internees have returned from the concentration camp in such a state of physical emaciation, a few in an absolutely pitiful condition, that a terrible impression has been created in the general population. Treating the Slovene population like this palpably undermines our dignity and is contrary to the principles of justice and humanity to which we make constant reference in our propaganda."[15]

Jewish internees at Rab

By 1 July 1943, 2,118 Yugoslav Jews were recorded having been interned by the Italian army. Starting in June 1943, they were moved into a newly constructed section of the Rab concentration camp, alongside the Slovenian and Croatian section. Unlike the Slovene and Croatian prisoners, the Jewish ones were provided with better accommodation, sanitation and services; they were provided with wooden and brick barracks and houses in contrast to the overcrowded tents sheltering the Slavic prisoners.[why?][7]

Historian Franc Potočnik, also an inmate in the Slavic section of the camp, described the much better conditions in the Jewish section:

"The [Slavic] internees in Camp I could watch through the double barriers of barbed wire what took place in the Jewish camp. The Jewish internees were living under conditions of true internment for their 'protection', whereas the Slovenes and Croats were in a regime of 'repression'. . . . They brought a lot of baggage with them. Italian soldiers carried their luggage into little houses of brick destined for them. Almost every family had its own little house.... They were reasonably well dressed; in comparison, of course, to other internees."[7]

The difference in treatment was the consequence of a conscious policy by the Italian military authorities. In July 1943, the Civil Affairs Office at the 2nd Army HQ issued a memorandum on "The Treatment of Jews in the Rab Camp", which was enthusiastically approved by chief of the office and the 2nd Army's chief of staff.

The memorandum's author, a Major Prolo, urged that the infrastructure of the camp must be:

"...comfortable for all internees without risk to the maintenance of order and discipline. Inactivity and boredom are terrible evils which work silently on the individual and collectivity. It is prudent that in the great camp of Rab those concessions made to the Jews of Porto Re [Kraljevica] to make their lives comfortable should not be neglected."

He concluded with a clear reference to Italian awareness of the massacres of Jews that were ongoing elsewhere in German-occupied Europe:

"The Jews (...) have the duties of all civilians interned for protective reasons, and a right to equivalent treatment, but for particular, exceptional political and contingent reasons [emphasis added], it seems opportune to concede, while maintaining discipline unimpaired, a treatment consciously felt to be 'Italian' which they are used to from our military authorities, and with a courtesy which is complete and never half-hearted."

Some members of the Italian military also saw humane treatment of the Jews as a way of preserving Italy's military and political honour in the face of German encroachments on Italian sovereignty; Steinberg describes this as "a kind of national conspiracy [among the Italian military] to frustrate the much greater and more systematic brutality of the Nazi state."[7] According to the Slovenian Rab survivor, Anton Vratuša, who later became Yugoslavia's ambassador to the United Nations: "We were prisoners; they were protected people. We used their assistance."[14]

Notable WWII-era prisoners

Closure of the camp

By mid-1943 the camp's population stood at about 7,400 people, of whom some 2,700 were Jews. The fall of Mussolini in late July 1943 increased the likelihood that the Jews on Rab would fall into German hands, prompting the Italian Foreign Ministry to repeatedly instruct the General Staff that the Jews should not be released unless they themselves requested it. The ministry also began to put in place a mass transfer of the Jews to the Italian mainland. However, on 16 August 1943 the Italian military authorities ordered that the Jews were to be released from the camp, although those that wished could stay.[17]

The island remained in Italian hands until after the Armistice with Italy was signed on 8 September 1943, when the Germans seized control. About 245 of the Jewish inmates of the camp joined the Rab Brigade of the 24th Division of the People's Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia, forming the Rab battalion, though they were eventually dispersed among other Partisan units.

Although most of the Jews from the camp were evacuated to Partisan-held territory,[18] 204 (7.5%) of them, the elderly or sick, were left behind and were sent to Auschwitz by the Germans for extermination.[19] Ivan Vranetić was honored as one of the Croatian Righteous among the Nations for helping save the Jews evacuated from Rab in September 1943, one of whom he would later marry and retire to Israel.[20]

Memories of survivors

Survivors of the camp include Anton Vratuša, who went on to be Yugoslavia's ambassador at the United Nations (1967–69) and was Prime Minister of Slovenia (1978–80), Jakob Finci who was born in the camp, was later Bosnia's ambassador, and Elvira Kohn, a Jewish Croatian photo-journalist who described her experiences at the camp in some detail.[21]

Collective memory repression during the Cold war

Although in 1955, a memorial and cemetery were built on the site of the camp by the Goli Otok prisoners to a design by Edvard Ravnikar[22] and the site has also been given memorial notices in Croatian, Slovene, English and Italian, during the Cold War the collective memory was repressed due to British government seeing in non extradition of Italian war criminals, especially Pietro Badoglio, a guarantee of an anti-communist post-war Italy.[23]

Historical revisionism

The repression of memory led to historical revisionism in Italy. A photograph of an internee from Rab concentration camp was included in 1963 anthology "Notte sul'Europa" misidentified as a photograph of an internee of a German camp, when in fact the internee was Janez Mihelčič, born 1885 in Babna Gorica, who died at Rab in 1943.[24]

In 2003 the Italian media published Silvio Berlusconi's statement that Benito Mussolini merely "used to send people on vacation".[14]

See also


  1. ^ James Walston (1997) History and Memory of the Italian Concentration Camps, Historical Journal, p. 40.
  2. ^ a b Cresciani, Gianfranco (2004) Clash of civilisations, Italian Historical Society Journal, Vol.12, No.2, p.7
  3. ^ Fuller, Thomas; Tribune, International Herald (29 October 2003). "Survivors of war camp lament Italy's amnesia" – via
  4. ^ Effie Pedaliu (2004) Britain and the 'Hand-over' of Italian War Criminals to Yugoslavia, 1945-48. Journal of Contemporary History. Volume 39, No. 4, Special Issue: Collective Memory, pp. 503-529 ( preview)
  5. ^ Ballinger, P. (2002). History in exile: memory and identity at the borders of the Balkans. Princeton University Press; ISBN 0-691-08697-4
  6. ^ Giuseppe Piemontese (1946): Twenty-nine months of Italian occupation of the Province of Ljubljana. On page 10.
  7. ^ a b c d Steinberg, Jonathan (2002) All Or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941-1943, Routledge; ISBN 0-415-29069-4, pg. 34
  8. ^ Giuseppe Piemontese (1946): Twenty-nine months of Italian occupation of the Province of Ljubljana. On page 3. Book also quoted in: Ballinger, P. (2003), pg. 138
  9. ^ James Walston, a historian at the American University of Rome. Quoted in Carroll, Rory. "Italy's bloody secret." The Guardian. (Archived by WebCite®), The Guardian, London, UK, 25 June 2003.
  10. ^ a b Corsellis, John; Marcus Ferrar (2005). Slovenia 1945: Memories of Death and Survival After World War II, pp. 26-27. I.B. Tauris; ISBN 1-85043-840-4
  11. ^ Manini, Marino. Zbornik radova s Međunarodnog znanstvenog skupa Talijankska uprava na hrvatskom prostoru i egzodus Hrvata 1918-1943, pg. 659. Hrvatski institut za povijest, 2001.<--ISSN/ISBN needed-->
  12. ^ Rabski zbornik, 1953.
  13. ^ Kampor 1942-1943: Hrvati, Slovenci i Židovi u koncentracijskom logoru Kampor na otoku Rabu ("Kampor 1942-1943: Croats, Slovenes, and Jews in the Kampor concentration camp on the island of Rab"). Rijeka: Adamic, 1998.
  14. ^ a b c Survivors of war camp lament Italy's amnesia, 2003, International Herald Tribune
  15. ^ Steinberg, Jonathan. All Or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust, 1941-1943, pp. 131-33. Routledge, 2002; ISBN 0-415-29069-4
  16. ^ Čadež, Tomislav. "Alfred Pal: Preživio holokaust, dvaput bio na Golom otoku, a onda radio najljepše hrvatske knjige". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 2012-07-03.
  17. ^ Rodogno, Davide (2006) Fascism's European Empire: Italian Occupation During the Second World War, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-84515-7, pp. 354, 446
  18. ^ "Around the Jewish World at Croatia Reunion, Survivors Mark Passage from Prisoners to Fighters - Jewish Telegraphic Agency". 1 November 2013. Archived from the original on 1 November 2013.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  19. ^ Zuccotti, Susan (1996) in: Colombo, Furio. The Italians and the Holocaust: Persecution, Rescue, and Survival, p. 79. University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 0-8032-9911-7
  20. ^ "Massua-Holocaust Martyt's and Heroes' Remembrance Day ceremony".
  21. ^ "Home -".
  22. ^ Nebojša Tomašević, Kosta Rakic, Madge Tomašević, Madge Phillips-Tomašević, Karin Radovanović. Treasures of Yugoslavia: An Encyclopedic Touring Guide, p. 161; (1983)
  23. ^ Effie Pedaliu (2004) Britain and the 'Hand-over' of Italian War Criminals to Yugoslavia, 1945-48 Journal of Contemporary History. Vol. 39, No. 4, Special Issue: Collective Memory, pp. 503-529 ( preview)
  24. ^ Capogreco, C.S. (2004) "I campi del duce: l'internamento civile nell'Italia fascista, 1940-1943", Giulio Einaudi editore.


Further reading

External links

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