. The Polizeihaftlager « StepbyStep

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The Polizeihaftlager

Located in BORGO SAN DALMAZZO

When you enter the courtyard of the former Alpine Corps barracks in Borgo San Dalmazzo, a tiny town about eight Km from Cuneo the traces of the existence of this German Police detention lager are barely visible.

This courtyard was used to round up Jews of Italian and other nationalities was active from September 18th until November 21st, it was then under control of the collaborating RSI soldiers from December 9th until February 15th, 1944.

Note: RSI-Italian Social Republic: is the parallel Italian puppet state backed by the German occupiers headed by Mussolini after his fall and liberation by the hand of his allies subsequent to the cease fire negotiated by the Italian government headed by General Marshal Pietro Badoglio and the Anglo-American-Soviet allied forces

In this camp were put under custody about four hundred people, mostly Jews of different European nationalities. For many of these people this lager has been the last stage of a no return journey which for many of them was already a five year endurance of escaping arrests simply for their Semitic origins. From there 375 people, adults and young boys and girls were transported to Auschwitz, their final destination. Not more than twelve of them survived this ordeal.

At the entrance of this building which is today hosting the local public ambulatory there’s a plaque in remembrance of the events taken place during the war years. The history of the detention camp and the nearby railway station are now considered two locations of the memory; their historical significance can be divided in two periods.

SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER 1943

After the cease fire negotiated with the allies on September 1943 subsequent to the collapse of the IV Army the Southern French departments formerly occupied by the Italian Fascist Battalions lost control.

During the years of 1942-1943 in the Italian occupied Departments of Nice and Alpes Maritimes were collected under a program denominated “forced residence” a few thousands of non French Jews, whom were escaping the harsh and incessant Nazi persecution, they found a relative safe shelter from these deportation. One of these locations of forced residence was San Martin de Vesubie where over thousand Jews lived in relative safety under the cease fire of September 8, 1943. The Vesubie Valley is linked to the Cuneo area across the Alps by two mountain passes located at 2400 meters high which were climbed by other a thousand of Jews of different nationalities starting on September 13th.Many families embarked on this journey over the Alpine passes in the belief that the Italian territory (after the September 8 ceasefire) would guarantee them safety, therefore they arrived at the villages of Valdieri and Entracque located in the Gesso Valley, near Borgo San Dalmazzo looking for a safe refuge.During these times the first organized underground anti-fascist resistance groups started to operate in the mountains around Borgo San dalmazzo.

On September 18 the SS Command ordered to all “foreigners” present in the territory to report to the German Command station in Borgo San Dalmazzo. 349 people, among them Jews from Poland (119), France (56), Germany (42), Hungary (34), Austria (25) and Belgium (22), but also Russian, Greek, Slovak, Croatian, Lithuanian and Turk citizens were registered at the camp. Some of them did report spontaneously or have been rounded up by the Nazi-fascist militia and locked up in the barracks. The other fugitives tried to find refuge with some of the local valley residents and some joined the newly formed resistance bands. Great is the esteem of gratitude of saved ones awarded to the Righteous in the Nations, as quiet a few local families especially farmers risked their lives to hide these fugitives.

The Medal of Righteous has been awarded to Father Raimondo Viale of Borgo San Dalmazzo, Father Francesco Brondello and the sisters Anna and Marianna Giordana from the village of Andonno for their courageous role in saving many lives.

On September 28 the “foreigners” at the camp were also joined by the members of the Cuneo Jew community arrested and then released without an explanation on November 9th just a few days before the “foreigner’s” deportation to the death camps; the released ones find refuge in the mountains while the others were condemned to deportation.

The first train convoy Borgo San Dalmazzo – Drancy – Auschwitz

For the first two months the interned lived in segregation, however without the level o violence which was common in other Nazi lagers. On November 21st 1943 by order of Nice Gestapo anti-Semitic affairs bureau 349 foreigners, including the sick where taken to the train station and amassed on freight carriages and sent to the lager of Drancy via Savona and Nice. At Drancy this group originally coming from St. Martin de Vesubie spent about a month before being deported to Auschwitz on train # 64 December 7. Only 12 of them survived their tragic ordeal. After November 21 deportation the lager was vacant and inactive for a period of two weeks.

DICEMBER 1943 – FEBRUARY 1944

Second train convoy Borgo San Dalmazzo – Fossoli – Auschwitz

Just over two weeks after the German tenure of the Camp, the camp was taken over by the Italian RSI administration: under the RSI security memo # 5 issued by Cuneo’s Police headquarters and the lager was used for the internment of the Jews of Cuneo County. In the camp were interned about 30 people mostly aged or sick were easy to find because remained in their homes or tried to hide to no avail.

Many of them were Saluzzo residents; for demographic and historical reasons the Jewish communities of the towns Cuneo, Mondovi and Fossano thinned out, while in the town of Saluzzo there was an substantial group made mostly of refugees from Torino. After December 2 all men were assigned to work at the German organization Todt at the Grangia airfield, while women and children were taken to the camp in Borgo San dalmazzo. More internments occurred afterwards, the first group of women was taken on December 4 but the majority arrived toward the end of January.

This is January 31st 1944 list of interned people destined to the transfer to Fossoli:

Adele Regina Segre, Anetta Levi, Delfina Ortona, Ida Moscati ved. Loris, Spartaco Segre, Lelio Levi, Ugo Jaffe, Guglielmo Valabrega, Giuseppina Valabrega, Franco Valabrega, Walter Greve, Evelyn Greve, Carmen Segre in Lattes, Eleonora Levi, Gemma Levi, Regina Levi, Elia Levi, Alda Levi, Levi Angela, Lattes Decima, Anna Lattes ved. Segre, Pia Clelia Levi, Amelia Levi, Beniamina Levi, Riccardo Hess, Alessandro Schiffer.

in BORGO SAN DALMAZZO