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The Associazione Casa della Memoria (House of Remembrance Association) of Servigliano, Italy, is now on Facebook.
While the focus of the “Survivors of Camp 59” site is on World War II, the camp has a longer history.
According to the Casa della Memoria website, the association’s broader remembrance of the past is defined in this way:
“These events left their mark on the history not just of the small community of Servigliano, but also of the many villages that overlook the Tenna Valley.
“Recovering the memory of all these events involving the Prison Camp is a duty we have to the people who lived through those difficult times, but also to the new generations. The events can be divided into three moments, in relation to the three great dramas of the 20th century:
the First World War;
the Second World War;
the Cold War.
“Each of these moments can be seen as a ‘crisis of values’ in our society, the enslavement of human intelligence and of resources to ideologies that claimed to be absolute, leading to an apocalyptic climax of destruction and death:
the use of the Camp during the First World War was due to nationalism;
the use of the Camp during the Second World War was due to Nazi-Fascism;
the use of the Camp during the Cold War was due to totalitarian socialism.
“Among the various Prison Camps scattered around Italy, the one in Servigliano permits a possibly unique reconstruction of twentieth-century history and its twisted ideologies.”
Robert A. Newton of Hillsboro, Oregon, Corporal Robert A. Newton’s nephew (he was named for his uncle when Corporal Newton did not return from the war) had these additional comments concerning his uncle and the interview with Cesare Viozzi (see the previous post):
“The father of the house was Pietro Viozzi.
“My uncle taught himself Italian in the camp. I understand that they held such classes for each other. He wrote home and said that he was learning both Italian and German.
Italian historian Filippo Ieranò conducted a number of interviews with Italians of the Marche region around 1999–2001.
They were published as Antigone nella Valle del Tenna, or “Antigone in the Tenna Valley” by the regional authority of the Marche (Consiglio Regionale delle Marche) in 2002. The title page refers to “The reception of fleeing Allied prisoners and Jews after 8th September 1943 in the valley of the River Tenna, as a form of civil disobedience against the Nazi-Fascists.”
The publication contains a July 2001 interview with Cesare Viozzi of Santa Vittoria in the Italian Marche.
Cesare Viozzi’s family sheltered American POWs Robert Alvey Newton (Logansport, Indiana) and Martin Majeski (Anderson, South Carolina) for nearly six months before the men were discovered by the Germans and executed on March 9, 1944.
Here is the story, in both the original Italian and translated into English by Anne Bewicke-Copley.
Avevano appiccato il fuoco (“They set it on fire”)
Eravamo 28 persone in casa in quel periodo. Abitavamo a metà strada tra Santa Vittoria in Matenano e Ponte Maglio, quattro famiglie insieme, tutti nella stessa abitazione. I prigionieri erano sparsi per le campagne, andavano a cercare aiuto un po’ di qua e un po’ di là. Allora i genitori decisero di prenderne due, si chiamavano Martin e Robert, due americani, e la famiglia aumentò arrivando a 30 persone.
We were 28 people in the house in this period. We lived halfway between Santa Vittoria in Mantenano and Ponte Maglio, four families together, all in the same house. The prisoners were spread out in the countryside, they came to ask help a bit here, a bit there. So my parents decided to take in two, called Martin and Robert, two Americans, and the family grew to 30 people.
Sergeant Armie S. Hill, circa 1943. I carried this photograph of my father with me to Roccafluvione and to the site of Camp 59, where he was a prisoner.
Strada Caserine winds up a mountainside westward from Roccafluvione. American servicemen Armie Hill and Ben Farley were led up this road by children to a farm where the family of Angela Bianchini offered them protection.
View into a rain-soaked valley from half way up Strada Caserine.
The story of how my father, Armie Hill, and Kentuckian Ben Farley were befriended in the town of Roccafluvione is recorded in an earlier post, “Armie’s Italian Angels.”
Take a moment to review Armie’s account, as it will help you appreciate the adventure described here—a September 2010 journey to Roccafluvione.
I had hoped to meet relatives of the Italians who had sheltered the two men. My friend Anne Bewicke-Copley said the way to get advance word out at Roccafluvione was to contact the town bars—the social hubs of the community.
In early August, I sent letters—translated into Italian—to the four bars in Roccafluvione. I also sent a letter to a city office—to the segreteria of the commune.
Before traveling to Italy, I thought I had a good sense of what Camp 59 was like—the layout of the camp, construction of the buildings, and the encompassing brick walls.
Of course, no former POW’s story of how things were in the camp—or even actual photographs I had been sent of Camp 59—could convey so complete a sense of the place as I experienced on walking though the camp for the first time in September.
From within the walls, I could look in all directions, touch the soil, feel the autumn Italian sun on my skin, hear birds and see them flying overhead.
The camp today is a community park called Il Parco della Pace (the Park of Peace), with green lawns, shrubs, trees, and playing fields and courts for soccer, basketball, and other sports.
During this time of year, as we devote time in our kitchens to preparation of holiday meals and mouthwatering pastries and desserts, consider for a moment how our imprisoned soldiers craved their favorite foods from home—probably more during this season than at any other time of year.
It is any surprise that the prisoners attempted to recreate some of these dishes, using their daily camp rations and items from the precious Red Cross parcels?
Three pages of Robert Dickinson’s journal, “Servigliano Calling,” are devoted to recipes, ranging from a compote and spreads to pies and fig pudding.
The situation called for some invention—fruit pie crust made of a paste of grated bread mixed with margarine for example.
Cooking was done handily on the camp cook stoves built by fellow prisoners from scraps of tin and shoelaces.
Although Robert titled this section of his journal “Campo 59 Cookery,” the last recipe, “Campo 53 Rarebit,” is evidence that the culinary experiments continued after his transfer to Camp 53 Sforzacosta in January 1943.
One of the poems in Robert’s journal, “Thoughts,” by C. G. Hooper-Rogers, contains a list of sorely missed foods from home. Of his yearnings, Hooper-Rogers writes:
“All I’ve got to do is think, / Of all I used to eat and drink, / And the phantom foods I used to like, / Haunt me all the blinking night.”
Red Cross Compòte
¼ spoonful of sugar
1 spoonful of milk powder
2 spoonfuls of cocoa
(Custard or jelly powder can be added)
Break up the bread into coffeé mug and just cover with water. Soak well until soft. Add other items separately; stirring in well. When finished allow to set (if possible!!) Sugar may be added as desired.
1 spoonful cocoa
1 spoonful milk powder
½ spoonful sugar
Mix the milk powder and the cocoa in the coffeé mug and add water, stirring well into a stiff paste add sugar.
Coffeé Spread (Method as for Chocolate Spread.)
1 spoonful coffeé
1 spoonful sugar
3 spoonfuls milk powder