Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


FOSSOLI, internment camp for British prisoners of war in the village of Fossoli, on the outskirts of the town of Carpi, in the province of Modena (Emilia), created by the Italian army in 1942. Opening in July, the camp consisted primarily of tents housing 1,800 British internees and 350 Italian guards under the command of Col. Giuseppe Ferraresi. In September a second section was opened and work began to substitute the tents with barracks. Living conditions for the prisoners were in accordance with international law, and representatives of the Red Cross visited regularly. By the summer of 1943, the two sections of the camp held about 4,000 prisoners.

After the Italian armistice with the Allies announced on September 8, 1943, the Germans began their long-planned occupation of Italy. Fossoli was under German control by the 9th. All Allied prisoners were deported to German camps, primarily Bergen-Belsen, during the second half of September.

At the end of November 1943, police order number 5 of the Ministry of the Interior of the Italian Social Republic announced that all properties of Jews were to be confiscated and that the Jews themselves should be arrested and detained. On December 5, the second section of the Fossoli camp was designated for Jewish prisoners and placed under the authority of the prefect of Modena, Bruno Calzolari. Within a few weeks, almost 1,000 Jews were detained in the camp. On March 15, the Germans officially took over the second section, which they had unofficially occupied since February, and placed it under the authority of the Befehlshaber der Sipo-SD, Wilhelm Harster, who resided in Verona. The second section then became a Polizei- und Durchgangslager controlled directly by the German SS and used as a base for the deportation of Jews and political prisoners to the East. The Italians continued to control the other section of the camp, where prisoners not destined for deportation were held. SS Untersturmfuehrer Karl Titho, aided by SS Hauptscharfueher Hans Haage, were awarded the direct command of the German section of Fossoli. Under them was a small group of SS, some Ukrainian volunteers, and some Italians from the Social Republic. Italians arrested for political or racial reasons, mainly in the northwestern region of the country, were sent to Fossoli. Deportations began on February 19, 1944, and ended on August 1 of that year, when the advancing Allies forced the Germans to retreat farther north. At that point, the Germans established their camp for political and racial prisoners at Bolzano-Gries. Altogether, about 5,000 prisoners were deported from Fossoli, of whom 2,461 were Jews.

Between autumn 1945 and the second half of the 1960s, Fossoli hosted various kinds of refugees: foreigners residing temporarily in Italy in the first postwar years as well as, after 1952, Italians fleeing from Dalmatia, controlled by Tito. The camp was then abandoned for several years. In 1973, the mayor of Carpi asked the Italian government for authority to turn Fossoli into a site of special remembrance. This was done in 1984. In 1996, a cultural foundation at the former camp was created for the purpose of educating new generations and nurturing the memory of the suffering that had occurred there. A study center dedicated to the memory of Primo *Levi, the great Italian Jewish writer who was deported to Auschwitz from the camp on February 22, 1944, was also created there.


M. Sarfatti, Gli Ebrei nell Italia fascista: Vicende, identità, persecuzione (2001); C.S. Capogreco, I Campi del Duce. (2004).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.