Monday, March 2, 2020



Many Italian Jews from the northern Italian"Venezia Giulia" region were sent -during the first years of WW2- to the internment camp of Campagna, a small city in southern Italy. These Jews (some were from Trieste and Istria-Dalmatia, but many others were not Italian-born) in 1943 survived the "Holocaust" in this internment camp, where they were helped by some inhabitants of this ancient southern Italian town. One of those who gave most help to them in those terrible last months of 1943, when Italy surrendered to the Allies (who landed on September 9, 1943 on the beaches of Salerno, a few dozen kilometers from Campagna), was the mayor of Campagna - Carlino D'Ambrosio (uncle of my father).

In August 1940 was done this photo showing the Italian Jew Bruno Pincherle (a doctor from Trieste forced to stay in the internment camp of Campagna) wearing glasses in the center of the photo, surrounded by local friends of this little city.
. The historical background of the Jews in WW2 Italy, according to what Giuseppe Pulin wrote (read for more information ,can be resumed with these excerpts: " the beginning of the second world war 41.300 were the Italian Jews.... Additionally there were 9,800 foreign Jews on Italian territory .... After the enactment of the racial laws of 1938 a few thousand Italian Jews left Italy (like the brilliant exponents of Italian physics Bruno Pontecorvo, Bruno Rossi, the Nobel laureates Emilio Segrè, Salvador Luria and even Enrico Fermi, who had a Jewish wife). Those who remained found a new life a bit easy, at least for the first few times. The discriminated ones were doing slightly better, while foreign residents were forced to leave Italy. The over-65-year-olds and those who had married to an Italian spouse could have remained ... By 20 September 1939 6,480 Italian Jews had left, however 2,486 had flowed into Italy (they were foreign Jews fleeing Germany, Poland and Yugoslavia)….. During 1941 the initial expulsion plan was set aside for objective impossibility due to the ongoing war and so on October 28th of that year, just over 7,000 foreign Jews -blocked- were present in Italy. Upon Italy's entry into the war, between departures and incoming arrivals, the balance of foreign Jews present in the peninsula had settled on 3,800 units. About 2,200 others would later join them, coming from areas under Italian military control (Slovenia, Dalmatia, Albania, Dodecanese, Libya) who were exceptionally allowed to enter Italy. In 1941 there were 7,369 foreign Jews interned in Italy and in April 1943 there were 6,832. In Italy, therefore, until the month of September 1943, civil internment was expressed in the two options of free internment camp (intended as a delimited and controlled space) and confinement (compulsory residence obligation in a given country) ... In the Campania region, four "internment" camps were created: Campagna, Ariano Irpino, Monteforte Irpino, and Solofra .... In the fields listed there were various types of internees ranging from opponents to the regime, to enemy subjects, to Gypsies, to allogens and of course to both Italian and foreign Jews. The latter were mainly found in the fields of: Alberobello (Bari), Ateleta (Aquila), Campagna (Salerno), Agnone (Campobasso), Carana (Cosenza), Ferramonti Tarsia (Cosenza), Gioia del Colle (Bari), Isola del Gran Sasso (Aquila), Marsiconuovo (Potenza), Montefiascone (Viterbo), Osimo (Ancona), Sforzacosta (Macerata), Terranova di Polino (Potenza), Tortoreto (Teramo), Tuscania and Valentano (Viterbo). Of these camps for Jews, the most important were those of Campagna and Ferramonti where in 1940 there were already about 400 Jews interned in the camps. "
of the caserma San Bartolomeo (a former late XIV century convent), that was used as internment camp in Campagna

. The largest and most important of the internment camps for Jews in southern Italy was that of Campagna. Only male Jews were interned in this small city of eleven thousand inhabitants, located nearly 40 kms east of Salerno in southern Italy. The first prisoners were 340 men captured in different parts of Italy. The majority of these were Jewish refugees who came from Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Dalmatia & Fiume, because Italian fascists were not harassing them like were doing German nazis; later another 100 were added, and so there were also some English, French, Russian, Turkish, Romanian and Latvian citizens with a group of 40 Italian Jews (almost all from the north-east of Italy). The number of internees, during the three-year period, varied considerably between 430 (February 1941) and 160 (September 1943).
Among the camps established by the fascist regime in June 1940 in existing buildings destined to welcome foreign Jews, the largest was that of Campagna; in the first months after it entered service it already hosted 430 men captured in different parts of Italy, including some English and French and a group of 40 Italian Jews (many from Trieste/Fiume and Istria/Dalmatia). However, the latter were all transferred to other camps after a few months. In November 1940 the number of foreign Jews had fallen to 230, in February 1941 to 170, to reach the lowest level in April 1942, with only 112 men. By November their number had risen to 170, and in the last months before the liberation by the Allies, which occurred in September 1943, it was around 160. About two thirds came from Germany and Austria, the rest were mainly Polish, Czechs or Jews of Fiume (actual Rijeka) who become "stateless". It is noteworthy to pinpoint that in those 3 years there were no deaths of Jews in the Campagna internment camp.

On June 16, 1940 the first internees arrived in Campagna, which were also received by Carlino D'Ambrosio (mayor of Campagna, then called Podesta') and by the Bishop of Campagna, Giuseppe Maria Palatucci. The were interned in two ex-convents: the Caserma San Bartolomeo and the Caserma Immaculate Conception.
Bruno Pincherle, a doctor from Trieste, was one of the first Jews interned in Campagna and remembered in a book (read how well he was treated by the local population. Pincherle was one of the Jewish doctors who began to cure the inhabitants of the place, although it was prohibited by Fascism. And he even used to have lunch at his friends' house in Campagna! Moreover, almost the whole town contributed to helping and protecting the internees. This attitude of the inhabitants of Campagna towards the interned Jews caused the then secretary of the National Fascist Party, Adelchi Serena, to write a letter to the local police chief in the autumn of 1941, in which he complained about the "too much freedom in which the Jews interned were living at the Campaign concentration camp, and demanded consequent measures by the regime's police forces". Additionally, it should be remembered that Pincherle, an expert of the history of Jews in Italy, often affirmed to his friends in Campagna that at the famous "Schola Medica Salernitana" there were numerous medical Jews and that in Salerno in the twelfth century there was the most numerous Jewish community of southern Italy: according to Rabbi Beniamino da Tudela in 1165 as many as 600 Jews lived in their small neighborhood of Salerno - a city which in that century had less than seven thousand inhabitants (please, read in Italian ).

And the doctor Bruno Pincherle used to add that in the "Principate of Salerno" (where Campagna was located) the Jews were well-liked and accepted since the Middle Ages and the Longobards centuries.
The Italian government gave the following official "Gold Medal" award to Campagna's citizens  (in September 2006 )
Medaglia d'oro al Merito Civile - nastrino per uniforme ordinaria Medaglia d'oro al Merito Civile
«La popolazione di Campagna, sfidando i divieti e le minacce di punizione e rappresaglie e dando testimonianza di elevati sentimenti di solidarietà e fratellanza umana, si adoperò per alleviare le sofferenze, dare ospitalità e, talvolta, favorire la fuga degli ebrei internati nel campo di concentramento ubicato in quel Comune. Mirabile esempio di eccezionale abnegazione ed elette virtù civili. 1940 - 1943»
— 1940 - 1943 Campagna
Furthermore, it should be highlighted that the bishop of Campagna Palatucci did his utmost for the moral and material assistance of the interned Jews, managing to save about a thousand of them from deportation to the Nazi extermination camps and receiving numerous appreciations later (readàdiDachaucommemoraGiovanniPalatucci/tabid/192/language/it-IT/Default.aspx ). The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial honored him in 1990 as "Righteous Among the Nations". Further information can be read at . Finally, the podesta' Carlino D'Ambrosio and some local fascist authorities, who kept the many activities of aid to interned Jews hidden from the higher authorities, must also be remembered. Indeed I want to pinpoint that there was an opposition inside the Italian Fascist Party ("Partito Nazionale Fascista") to the alliance with Nazi Germany. This opposition was ruled by two famous fascists: Gabriele D'Annunzio (the poet-fighter who inspired Mussolini) and Guglielmo Marconi (who received the Nobel for creating the "radio"), but lost power & importance after 1938, when both of them died. Carlino D'Ambrosio was a member of this opposing group and always rejected the Hitler's attacks against the Jewish people. Remembering the Podesta' Carlino D'ambrosio
Let me now remind you of "uncle Carlino", my father's uncle who became mayor of the town of Campagna. I consider him the member of my family who reached the highest levels, being mentioned in many books (and circles) for his help to the Jews in September 1943. I remember him -when I was a high school student and personally knew him in the 1960s - like a very affable and polite old man. He spoke little, but I immediately noticed his ability to be appreciated socially, being accepted by friends as group leader without reservations (as by all of us, his relatives). A quality that was typical of a born politician.
My father always told me that Uncle Carlino had the same qualities of "forming a group and leading him" as Uncle Mimino (my father's brother who was the soul and the engine of the best football team in Venezuela in the sixties and seventies: the "Deportivo Italia").
In fact writers like Gianluca Petroni and Adolfo Ricci remember him in the following passages of their books on Jews interned in Campagna during the Second World War:

".....I arrived in the courtyard of the "Olindo Guerrieri" boarding school in Campagna where I was immediately welcomed and accompanied, with the related equipment, to the place assigned to me, and helped by a couple of bold young men who expressed themselves in a language unknown to me. But it wasn't long before I got to know the story of those young people, and their other friends present there, almost all graduates or university students: I saw them in the evening in the refectory when, wearing a white coat, they began to serve us with the non-lavish dinner ... And so I came to know that those young people, the most adult of whom was called Abraham, were Jews and had been "settled" in that college with the function of table attendants and not only, because they were also employed in the various tasks that required the dormitories and others outbuildings of the building. Later I understood that those young Jews were there, among the collegiate of Campagna, to escape the racial laws promulgated by Fascism and with the full approval and consent of the owner of the college, as well as Podesta 'di Campagna, Mr. Carlino D’Ambrosio, and of other political authorities and religious eminences of the place, since the boarding school was officially directed by an excellent priest - Mons. Alberto Gibboni - part of the Curia and parish priest of the cathedral ... "
I remember that this boarding school 'Olindo Guerrieri' was owned by Uncle Carlino since 1936 (I think, but I'm not sure about the exact year) and it was temporarily closed in the terrible days of the surrender of Italy and the landing in Salerno of the Allies: in September 1943.

".....The internees (in the Campagna internment camp) were able to receive visits and enjoy assistance, in food, clothing and money, offered to them by DELASEM. (Delasem, the Italian Jewish refugee agency, worked to help provide food, clothes and money to supplement the official government allowance of Lire 6.50 per day) ….Among the prisoners there were many Jewish doctors who began to treat the locals, despite being prohibited by Fascism. Among the various inmates, the Russian painter Alessandro Degai was also imprisoned, who painted several works, giving them to various citizens. All the prisoners were free to move through the streets and houses of the town ( The internees had permission to move around the town of Campagna daily for six hours). Local police, led by police commissioner Eugenio de Paoli and supported by 30 Carabinieri (police officers of a lower rank), maintained camp surveillance. The relationship between the internees in Campagna camp and the local population was good – sometimes too good, as they were welcomed by the Campagnesi as friends. Friendship ties were created and so many inmates dined at the home of local friends. This also involved the mayor Carlino D'Ambrosio and the local fascist authorities who kept the activities hidden from the higher authorities...…. An essential role had the bishop of Campagna, Giuseppe Maria Palatucci and his nephew Giovanni Palatucci, Quaestor of Fiume, who by sending as many Istrian Jews as possible to the Camp, saved hundreds of them from the extermination camps. .... To alleviate their detention, a library was set up, a football team that periodically played with external teams, a small theater and an internship bulletin. A small synagogue was also set up in the barracks of San Bartolomeo and, for a period, at the invitation of the bishop, an interned pianist (Bogdan Zins, an internationally famous polish pianist) played the organ in the main church during Sunday mass. On September 8, 1943, when the allied troops arrived in the southerners, fascists and German troops placed near Campagna, in an attempt to make reprisals, went to the former barracks to execute the detainees. Once on the spot they found no one, as previously informed by the inhabitants, the internees were made to flee into the mountains. ...."
Photo of the Jews interned in the S.Bartolomeo caserma in summer 1941, surrounded by friendly Italian carabinieri (What a difference with photos of Jews interned in Nazi camps in Germany!)


And now allow me to add something that is not mentioned in the texts that I have read: Uncle Carlino - according to what his brother (my grandfather Luigi) told me - ordered all the fascist soldiers and policemen stationed in Campagna on the night of September 8 ( when Italy surrendered) to stay locked in their barracks. At the same time he (risking his life for this decision) ordered one of his trusted attendants to leave all the doors of the cells of the Jewish detainees in the Campagna internment camp open, so that they would flee -without any obstacle- to the mountains around Campagna before the German Nazis arrived (who would immediately send them to the camps of extermination in Germany). In this way all 160 Jews locked up in Campagna were saved.

Uncle Carlino was offered an official recognition (as a "Righteous") after the war by Jews residing in Israel (some of them had survived thanks to him) but nothing was done because he had joined the Fascist Party (the one and only in my family) and the Israeli authorities did not allow this kind of honorific to a member of this Party.
May Carlino D'Ambrosio rest in peace. For me and my family he is a "Righteous" and deserves all eternal respect.