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You are here: HomeWho we areZonderwater Block Ex-Pow Association

Associazione Zonderwater Block ex Pow

                                                                                                                               Informazione verde9eThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

                                           NEWS ! 

 10 - 11 Settembre 2023 Raduno annuale del gruppo ZONDERWATER Block ex P.O.W.  – Roma

 Eventi (zonderwater.com)        

Raduno 2023

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Zonderwater Block Ex-Pow Association

After that the last Prisoner of War left the Zonderwater camp, and the sheds were pulled down, during the first months of 1947, the ex-pows who remained to live in South Africa, felt the need to assure a proper dignity to the tombs of the small cemetery, for which, in the previous year colonel Prinsloo himself, the camp commander, had asked the South African government to recognize the right for its permanent use to the Italian State.

On november 2nd, 1947 a group of ex pows, of whom the only one still living is the Romagnole Paolo Ricci, went to the site to weed and to lay some flowers. More ex pows joined the group in the following years.

The group provided the cemetery opening, the site maintenance and organized remembrance ceremonies.

This arrangement based on voluntary service was formalized in 1965 with the establishment of the Zonderwater Block ex-pow Association provided with  proper statute bodies.

One of the main purposes of the association was to foster good relationships between Italians and South Africans; it obtained for Italy, in November 1986, the South African government recognition for the permanent use of the memorial and the permit, in November 1990, to build a museum for the conservation of documents, objects and the memories of the camp.

The association, based in Milan, was also active in Italy until 1997 with branches in the various regions. The   magazine “Tra i reticolati” created by pows among the camp blocks, became the Association magazine, edited by the ex pows themselves.

Zonderwater was visited in 1985 by the South African president P.W. Botha and, in 2002, by the Italian President C.A. Ciampi. In various occasions the Association looked after the coinage of some wonderful commemoration medals. The last one has been presented in November 2011 for the LXX camp Anniversary and the CL Anniversary of the Italian unity.

2011 Medal - Celebration 70 -150

In 2000 Emilio Coccia  became the new chairman of the association and in 2004 a new statute has been passed. Born in Parma, Italy, Emilio has a University Degree in Construction Engineering. He has lived in South Africa for some decades and is a builder by profession.

Ing. Emilio Coccia

* Emilio Coccia

Cavaliere dell'Ordine della Stella d'Italia (già Stella della solidarietà italiana)- Data del conferimento: 08/01/2004  Cavaliere dell'Ordine della Stella d'Italia

A real spirit-of-the-place, Emilio truly revitalized the association which, by the time was starting to lack the contribution of the ex pows for understandable age reasons.

He now spends most of his spare time searching the Pretoria archives for documents bearing witness of the camp life, in maintaining relations with “Onorcaduti” in Rome, in replying to the ex pow descendants requests and, last but not least in looking for voluntary financial contributions to make up for the cuts, due to the economic crisis, to the already meager funds  provided by Italy, for the site maintenance.

The Italian embassy and the Consulates delegate to him many important tasks. We can unquestionably say that many big responsibilities, always cleverly carried out, bear heavily on the shoulder of only one person: an old school  gentleman, worthy of the best Italy, with a gentle touch but sturdily determined, passionate, capable and creative.

Currently, with personal resources he is reproducing the archives of over 100,000 personal pow cards, a real data mine! It is the only complete and unique existing documentation on the event, and he is saving it from complete oblivion in the total indifference from our public institutions. He also relentlessly looks for new finds to enrich the tidy museum. The cemetery also is particularly well kept and is able to match up to the demanding requirements of the British culture visitors.

The address of the association, which is based at the Zonderwater Memorial is: P.O. Box 647, 0062 IRENE, South Africa.

In front of the area where the cemetery, the chapel, the museum and “The three Arches” monument are, in the red soil, some sycamores grow. Each of them was planted, on a donation as a memory of an ex Pow, whose name is displayed in a showcase annually updated by the association.

Tre Archi - Cimitero

Also to the South African Vice Defense Secretary, Thabang Makwetla “Zonderwater is an appeal to maintain unity and harmony within our community”. These are the words he addressed to the Italians. He also said: “this an appeal to preserve the memory of your roots, to nourish and reinforce the ties with your homeland, without failing to observe the loyalty duty to a country which has generously welcomed you”. The South African government representative closed his speech inviting the Italo-South Africans “to do your best to speak Italian to your children and grandchildren”... “This is the Best present you can give to our brothers interred in Zonderwater”. 


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  1. Per contribuire alle spese di mantenimento di questo sito web
  2. Per l'Associazione Zonderwater Block ex PoW:                                                                                              a) Album P.O.W.       b) Richieste di informazioni sui prigionieri 
  3. Albero del ricordo: nel terreno antistante il sito che ospita il Cimitero c'è la possibilità di piantare un albero a ricordo di un ex pow il cui nome figura in una bacheca aggiornata annualmente dall'Associazione Zonderwater Block ex P.O.W.
    L'importo da noi suggerito per la donazione è di 100,00 Euro. 60,00 Euro/600,00 Rand sono per l'albero, come stabilito dall'Associazione. La differenza di 40,00 Euro va al Museo della stessa Associazione per l'annuale manutenzione.