The Fossoli Camp
Fossoli, near Carpi, in the district of Modena, was singled out as an ideal location for a fascist concentration camp, known as "War Prison Camp no.73", and earmarked to receive prisoners of war, soldiers and allied non-commissioned officers. By the first few days of September 1943, the camp was abandoned and the military detainees left in Fossoli were shipped to the prison camps in Germany.
Immediately after this work began on enlarging the camp. When the first 827 Jews arrived the new buildings had still to be completed, and therefore some of the deportees had to be housed in the barracks of the ex-military camp.
Since the beginning of 1944, the new camp, directly under German control, was rectangular in shape and surrounded by three rows of barbed wire netting. The deportees’ barracks inside the camp were made of wood and stone.
The Fossoli camp was operative for about 7 months. Thousands of Jews and political opponents of the regime passed through it, the vast majority en-route to the extermination camps in Germany and Poland.
The first major shipment (the one referred to by Primo Levi) was composed almost exclusively of Jews and left Fossoli on 22 January 1944. Many other shipments followed, bound for Mauthausen, Bergen, Belsen and Auschwitz.
By the beginning of August, the camp had been almost completely cleared and the remaining deportees transferred to Bolzano, where Haage and Titho, the SS Commanders were also transferred.
The SS committed a number of horrendous crimes at Fossoli; the most serious of which was the execution by firing squad of 67 deportees (and anti-fascists) on 12th July (see a testimony by Alba Valech Capozzi, who was present at Fossoli in the days of the massacre ). Ten days later, (22nd July), the partisan Resistance hero and leading figure of the ‘Party of Action’ Leopoldo Gasparotto, was slaughtered.
Some of the camp’s buildings, although in appalling conditions, still exist today. During the last few years the move to conserve these buildings as evidence of Italy’s Deportation History, has gained momentum. Recently, guided tours have been organised in the camp and the upkeep of the area has been better maintained.
In 1973, a museum was inaugurated in the Castle of Pio in Carpi, as a memorial to the political and racial deportees of the Nazi extermination camps ("Museo monumento al deportato politico e razziale nei campi di sterminio nazisti").