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Nuovo ospedale Zonderwater
Nuovo ospedale Zonderwater costruito dai prigionieri
L'adunata nel campo di prigionia Zonderwater
Tende del primo periodo
Tende del primo periodo 41-42
Libri e diari personali dei prigionieri
Alcune preziose testimonianze dei campi di prigionia attraverso diari e libri
Oggetti di prigionia
Alcuni oggetti giornalieri del campo di prigionia
Sud Africa Gennaio 1947
Sud Africa Gennaio 1947.
Giornali dei prigionieri
Giornali dei prigionieri
presso l'Agriturismo La Razza a Canali, Reggio Emilia
Zonderwater (South Africa), the biggest detention camp built by the Allies during World War II. The camp, built 43 kms from Pretoria, hosted, from April 1941 to January 1947, more than 100,000 Italian soldiers captured by the British on the North and East Africa fronts.
The Zonderwater human adventure starts from the tent city of 1941, transformed in 1943 into that huge and permanent built up area formed by red bricks and wooden constructions then bound to become almost a legend: "14 blocks, each of them made up, normally, by 4 camps (they were 44 in total). Each camp hosted 2,000 men, therefore a block could accommodate 8,000 prisoners. Overall, Zonderwater had a total capacity of 112,000 men.
It definitely was a great human event: over there, in the red bricks town it was necessary, to avoid surrender, to invent one's own world, forcing oneself out of dejection and apathy, keeping mind and muscles fit.
That is where the will to get organized, to promote initiatives, to create from nothing all start. What miracle arose from it?
Language schools, primary schools for illiterate and technical/vocational school with specific textbooks; libraries, literature and literature awards, a camp magazine, theatre plays (17 active theatres) musical activity, handicraft, sports and recreational activity, (16 football fields with running tracks and stands, 80 areas for playing bowls, 16 fencing fields, 6 tennis courses, boxing and Graeco-Roman wrestling rings, basketball and volleyball fields, etc). Last but not least: religious assistance.
Undoubtedly, various elements helped in the achievement of such a miracle: first of all the appointment of a South African commander like Col. Prinsloo, an officer gifted with extreme competence and humanity (see picture..) In the second place the concrete support by associations like YMCA and the moral and material assistance of both the International and the Italian Red Cross. Moreover, the presence in South Africa of an always active and helpful background represented by the local large and wealthy Italian community (Zonderwater was a little more than 40 kms far from Pretoria and slightly farther away from Johannesburg. Also the countrymen from Cape Town actively cooperated within the Assistance Committees for the Italian pows which were timely formed and gave their generous contribution).
Further, the work carried out by the Mutual Assistance Fund within the pows themselves with fraternal solidarity. Lastly, the building of the huge hospital (3000 beds) almost exclusively assigned to our medical officers and those of the Carolina Health House.
One could argue that we are lingering only on the positive sides of this mastodontic grief city. Fraudulent events and unwise behavior belong to all detention camps and but they are more part of dishonesty than they are of history: while escapes, common to all detention sites, are part of the latter one. Many were attempted but a few succeeded.
252 ex pows rest in the "Tre Archi" (Three Arches) cemetery where, an inscription on the big central cross base says: "Morti in prigionia/Vinti nella carne/Invitti nello spirito/L'Italia lontana/Vi benedice in eterno/ MCMXLIII" (Dead in captivity/Defeated in flesh/Undefeated in spirit/ Faraway Italy/Blesses you forever/MCMLIII)
"Nobody loves his homeland because it is large but because it is his own homeland"
(Lucius Annaeus Seneca)
"Memories are good for the spirit and for the present, both to avoid errors and to cast an eye full of peace and forgiveness at the past ones. Memories are also good to unmask dangerous and vain historical illusions which cause damage to a large part of mankind"
Sister M. Roberta Tiberio OSB, daughter of pow Vittorio.
Donation for: "Photo album P.O.W. - ITALIAN P.O.W. IN THE UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA - P.di G. ITALIANI NELL'UNIONE SUD AFRICANA"
The details in the historical images section: http://www.znderwater.com/en/pictures/historical-pictures.html
Anyone interested can request a copy of the book by making a donation of 34.00 Euros. (30.00 Euros for Zonderwater Block Association, 4.00 Euros for shipping).
Donation for: "Getting information and documents of prisoners to Zonderwater Block ex POW Association"
The Zonderwater museum archives keeps 109,000 cards, one per POW, filled in at the camp entry moment and containing biographical data and information given by the POW on his army corps and date of capture. Later other info were added like medical records if pow had admission to hospital and, finally, the repatriation date.These very precious evidences are the only documents left and are jealously kept by the Zonderwater Block Association. Anybody wanting to get information on the POW Case History and other documents owned by the association, is kindly requested to make a donation of € 10 – 15, as a help to partly cover the maintenance expenses of the Zonderwater museum which supports itself on donations, personal contributions, and voluntary work by the Executive Committee.
We trust that our goal is clear to you and we assure that is has no hidden purpose.
Moreover, we commit ourselves, in case two months elapse without providing a reply, to reimburse the paid amount.
Use the button "Donazione per l'Associazione Zonderwater Block ex PoW"