PG 118 - Prato Isarco

Sheet by: Costantino Di Sante

General data

Town: Cornedo dell’Isarco

Province: Bolzano

Region: Trentino-Alto Adige

Location/Address: Prato all’Isarco - Cornedo dell’Isarco

Type of camp: Prisoner of War camp, work camp

Number: 118

Italian military mail service number: 3200

Intended to: NCOs – Troops

Local jurisdiction: XXXV Army Corps

Railroad station: Prato all’Isarco

Accommodation: military quarters

Capacity: 800

Operating: from 05/1941 to 09/1943

Commanding Officer: Major Montanelli (May – October 1941); Lt. Col. L. Lanza (April – September 1943)

Brief chronology:
May 1941: the camp was opened.
June 1941: the first British PoWs arrived at the camp.
25 October 1941: the camp was closed.
April 1943: the camp was reopened (as PG 118) as a work camp.

Allied prisoners in the Cornedo dell’Isarco camp

Date Generals Officers NCOs Troops TOT
31.5.1943     2 512 514
30.6.1943     2 512 514
31.7.1943     2 582 584
31.8.1943     3 613 616

Camp’s overview

PG 118 Prato Isarco, in some documents listed as Campo Tires because of the nearby train station’s name, was established in the Bolzano province by refurbishing the former Blumau brewery. The Ministry of Interior bought the building at the end of 1939. After restoration, it was officially opened to held Yugoslavian PoWs in May 1941. At first, (May – October 1941), the future PG 118 was intended for NCOs.
On 4 May 1941, 482 Serbian PoWs arrived from the transit camp in Gorizia. For various reasons, including the claim by the Red Cross that, among the PoWs, there were civilians, the Serbians were transferred to other camps, and, in July, the first British PoWs arrived. They were 380 British and 513 Australians, but there were also a few Indians and servicemen from other nations and British dominions. Their presence, especially that of the Sikhs, who had turbans and long beards, caused the curiosity of the local population, who often lurked around the camp to see them. Lured by the PoWs’ manner of dress, many people came to Prato Isarco during the weekend, even from Bolzano.
This situation was reported to the authorities by an anonymous tip-off. The report also noted that the camp had become a centre of Allied propaganda, thanks to the Red Cross parcels destined to the PoWs, which contained clothing, various delicacies, and even coffee, which could not be found in Italy.
Initially, no measures were taken. However, the PoWs’ presence continued to be a powerful enticement for the locals. As the population lived in peculiar circumstances (since 1939, the people of Bolzano province could opt to be citizens of Nazi Germany), the prefetto of Bolzano was instructed to enquire about the actual conditions of the camp. On 14 October, he sent a report to the Ministry of Interior. He noted that despite access to the camp being forbidden, anyone could see the prisoners from the nearby national highway. Moreover, he reported that the population was impressed by the number of parcels the PoWs received and their content: «chocolate, tea, honey, sugar, biscuits, tinned meat extract, salmon, margarine butter, condensed milk, and a package of 50 cigarettes».
For this reason, the Chief of Staff decided to close the camp and disperse the PoWs to other camps. The Australians and those belonging to the dominions were sent to Grupignano (Udine), the 300 British were sent to Sulmona (L’Aquila), and the English to Capua. At the end of October, the camp was evacuated and closed.
At the beginning of 1943, it was reopened as a quarantine camp for Italian soldiers returning from Russia. In March 1943, the camp was reopened again as a work camp for British PoWs and identified as PG 118.
It remained open for over four months and was the base camp for several work detachments. It held more than 500 Allied PoWs; most were probably South Africans and, in the last period before its closure, 449 Yugoslavians. There is no specific information as to their employment. One document noted that, on 3 May, some work groups had been established in the Montecatini factory in the Bolzano industrial zone at Oltreisarco.
After the war, the building of the former brewery was abandoned. On 7 September 2019, the Prato all’Isarco township and some associations placed a plaque to commemorate its use during the war as a PoW camp.

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