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Avezzano concentration camp

The meaning of «avezzano concentration camp»

Avezzano concentration camp was an Italian assembly and detention camp set up in 1916 in the Abruzzo city of the same name during World War I, immediately after the 1915 Marsica earthquake that almost completely destroyed it decimating the population. The detention camp was reserved to about 15,000 prisoners from the Austro-Hungarian army, mainly of Czech–Slovak, Polish, German, and Hungarian nationalities; Romanians, who were gathered in the Romanian Legion of Italy by the end of the conflict, had a garrison and a training camp in Avezzano.[1] Mostly abandoned in 1920, a sector was reused in World War II to house Indian, English, New Zealand, and Pakistani war prisoners.[2]

A few months before the Kingdom of Italy's official entry into World War I, the disastrous 1915 earthquake almost completely destroyed the city of Avezzano, razing to the ground a lot of centers in Marsica and the nearby provinces as well. Because of the earthquake, the city recorded a population loss of about 90%.[3] Despite everything, the few young men who had survived and belonged to the age classes of the last years of the nineteenth century[4] were not exempted from military service and were called to the recruitment in the army at war and to the mobilization towards the Karst Plateau. In a short time, the youth who had survived the earthquake had to abandon the devastated areas, leaving a real generation void.

In order to support the reconstruction of the city, in the second half of 1916 the Salandra government decided to install Central Italy's largest concentration camp for Austro-Hungarian war prisoners. Capable to house about 15,000 internees and 1,000 Royal Italian Army officers and soldiers in charge of guard, the camp also had a larger extension than Abruzzo internment camps and Servigliano imprisonment camp. Officially coded as PG091, the camp was located in an area north of the city, in a piece of land of about 33 hectares (82 acres), where 192 masonry and wooden pavilions were erected for prisoners' shelter and logistical services.[5]

Besides the military engineering warehouse-office, built near the Cimarosa Cottage (Villino Cimarosa), several urbanization and logistics works were carried out in the camp: the military command-house, the small hospital, the sutler's shop, the stores, the guard building, the internal road system, the water plant connected to the Tre Conche reservoirs through 12-kilometre (7.5 mi) pipes, the almost 8-kilometre-long (5.0 mi) sewing network, the power network system.[6]

The prisoners of Avezzano concentration camp were engaged, in observance of the international directives established by the Geneva Convention, in a number of works such as removal of the rubble from the 1915 earthquake, co-operation to the reconstruction of the new city through the building of roads and public buildings, agricultural works in the Fucino fields left uncultivated, reclamation of rivers and streams, planting of the pinewood with the primary purpose of protecting the area from the frosty winds coming in winter from Mount Velino,[7] afforestation of Mount Salviano and Mount Tino in Celano and extraordinary repairs to the municipal cemetery.[8] There were also requests for help by the mountain municipalities of Marsica and the province on the occasion of natural disasters, such as the heavy winter snowfalls.[9]

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