The Capture and the Journey

After the announcement of the Armistice with the Allied forces, read on the radio by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and officers, disorientated by their lack of orders, were captured by the Germans and forced to surrender their weapons. They were forced en masse into barracks or fenced areas set up at the stations. Numerous personal testimonies describe how, after exhausting periods of waiting they were crammed into trains / cattle cars, 40 and more per wagon, crushed against each other, without any possibility of lying down and sleeping, tortured by hunger and thirst. During the journey, which lasted as much as fifteen days, their condition became unsustainable.

This showcase displays objects and finds that try to portray an ideal image of a “young Italian”, born and raised during Fascism: a uniform, residues of a gas mask, a conscription sheet (class 1922), some fascist organization cards, a textbook from the elementary classes and finally a sweater with a tennis racket. They all demonstrate the regime’s efforts to temper both spirit and body of the new generation.

Spilling out of the rucksack here we can see a variety of objects which belonged to different IMIs. They have been put together here in a single and symbolic collection of the most precious things which each soldier carried. These are cherished, private relics, which have been donated after being stored for years. They come from among the few pieces which were saved, despite searches by the Germans or by the losses which were suffered during frequent transfers from one concentration camp to another. There are letters written to relatives, a clock, a pipe, a photograph of a woman, a fountain pen and a Jew’s harp, a blanket…