PG 107 - Torviscosa

Sheet by: Isabella Insolvibile

General data

Town: Torviscosa

Province: Udine

Region: Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Location/Address: Villaggio Roma - Torviscosa

Type of camp: Work camp

Number: 107

Italian military mail service number: 3200

Intended to: troops

Local jurisdiction: XXIII Army Corps

Railroad station: Torviscosa

Accommodation: huts

Capacity: 2000

Operating: from 09/1942 to 08/09/1943

Commanding Officer: Col. Gustavo De Dominicis (9-11.1942); Col. Nunzio Nicita (12.1942-6.1943); Col. Rinaldo Rosichelli (August – 8 September 1943)

Brief chronology:
September 1942: Allied PoWs were assigned to PG 107 and, later, to its detachments.
May 1943: four PoWs escaped.
8 September 1943: most of the PoWs escaped.

Allied prisoners in the Torviscosa camp

Date Generals Officers NCOs Troops TOT
30.9.1942     9 491 500
31.10.1942     11 989 1000
30.11.1942     11 989 1000
31.12.1942     11 989 1000
31.1.1943     11 989 1000
28.2.1943     11 989 1000
31.3.1943     11 989 1000
30.4.1943     10 989 999
31.5.1943     11 1319 1330
30.6.1943     9 1371 1380
31.8.1943     9 1371 1380

Camp’s overview

PG 107 Torviscosa was a large work camp, opened in the “factory” town of Torviscosa, which had been established in 1938 to house the workers of the SAICI-SNIA Viscosa firm.
PG 107 was, like Cinecittà, among the first work camps in Italy for Allied PoWs. They were mainly employed on the farms belonging to the SNIA. The firm requested the camp, as its workforce had been drafted to the front line during the war. The PoWs, who came from other camps such as PG 52 Pian di Coreglia and PG 57 Grupignano, were employed in reclamation works, in building a road near the camp, and, especially, on plantations, the production of which was intended for the cellulose factory. In 1943, the camp had some detachments in Prati Nuovi, Valle Tagli, Torre di Fine, and La Salute di Livenza.
PG 107 was located on a plain, and the weather was reasonably good, albeit cold and foggy. The camp comprised 37,000 square metres and was divided into two sections by barbed wire. Each section comprised four large huts and a small one shaped like a horseshoe. Additional buildings also housed the shower rooms, the mess hall, the kitchen, the infirmary, the military shop, the prison, and other services such as barbers, shoemakers, and tailors. The huts were made of bricks and concrete, with the roofs made of asbestos. They were adequately lit but not heated, despite the repeated promises made by the captors. Rations were in line with those expected for PoWs employed in physical work, but the prisoners lacked clothing and shoes.
Medical personnel visited the prisoners daily. The PoWs were divided into groups of 100 men (labelled «centurie») under the supervision of a prisoner NCO and a technical assistant provided by their employer. Guards were posted around the entire working area. The PoWs worked from 8 am to 3 pm, with a lunch break and were paid 3 lire. According to the neutral observers, the work was light, and the prisoners were happy to do it.
As months went by, the camp became overcrowded, the structure got old, and supplies continued to be scarce. In particular, PoWs were forced to work in the cold, often in the rain, without proper shoes and wearing their battledress because they did not have spare clothes. Moreover, there were problems with parasites in the spring and summer of 1943.
Relationships between the PoWs and the captors were, overall, good. The sole exception was with the camp’s interpreter, who was reported for using violence and offending the PoWs. Discipline was fairly rigid, and attempts were made (without much success) to curb the black market between the guards and the PoWs. As noted by A. J. Barker:

The prisoners were not overworked, and the overseers were usually willing to do an illicit trade in food and wine for cigarettes and soap and to retell items of news they had heard over the BBC. As in Germany, the British POWs quickly established a working arrangement, downing tools and refusing to obey instructions when their employers tried to impose any form of sanction or to speed the work beyond the limit the prisoners considered reasonable. [Barker, p. 104]

Because of their work, PoWs inevitably mingled with the population. According to a former prisoner of the camp, for example: «The few senorinas [sic] who went by were subjected to a barricade of remarks, from friendly and humorous to straight out suggestive. Their reply was often an invitation to escape» [SMTA, Andrew, digital page 54]. In August 1943, the carabinieri reported that the population brought eggs, wine, and other comfort goods to the PoWs because they had established friendly relations with them, as proved by the love affair between a Boer Sergeant and a local girl who received the family’s assent. The carabinieri excluded «any form of espionage intent» between the two, but the file in Trieste also noted with preoccupation the «excessive freedom» with which the PoWs were able to interact with the civilians and the flourishing black market between them. It also noted that «such relations, although merely economical, are widely commented upon and make apparent how enemy propaganda is doing its best to depress the morale of our citizens, to impress the idea of the richness and generosity of our enemy in contrast with our poverty» [ACS, MI, DGPS, A5G, II GM, b. 118, f. 59].
These relations, formed spontaneously between co-workers or peers, were a preview, and a necessary premise, to the encounter between the PoWs and the population after 8 September. An encounter that, as far as Torviscosa was concerned, led to the locals welcoming many of the former enemies into their homes.
Although PG 107 might appear to have been better accommodation than many other camps, because at least the PoWs had something to do, escape attempts and protests did happen. In May 1943, four PoWs, two South Africans and two Irish, with the complicity of three fellow PoWs who were on trash duty, hid in some trash bags, which, on Sunday afternoon, were brought to a container outside the camp. The escapees managed to stay on the run for six days and were recaptured near the Yugoslavian border. They were questioned by the Gorizia carabinieri, brought back to the camp, beaten and put in solitary for 30 days. Their accomplices suffered the same fate. After the war, the camp’s commander, Col. Nunzio Nicita, was prosecuted and sentenced to four months in prison for this mistreatment.
As mentioned, Torviscosa was one of the few camps from which the PoWs managed to escape after 8 September. Although roughly 300 PoWs decided to stay in the camp, obeying the «stay put order», the others, including those in the detachments, ran away. Many were recaptured, but others managed to reach the Yugoslavian partisan bands.
The camp, once closed, was converted into a refugee camp but, at the beginning of 1945, even though the area was inside the Adriatic coast theatre, it was turned into a village for workers (Villaggio Roma) to accommodate those working for the SNIA company. The camp maintained this function until the end of the 1970s when the wooden huts of the camp were demolished to make room for houses, which still exist today.

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