Current Affairs
Why were 2,000 Maltese civilians interned in Italian Concentration Camps during WW2?

A TVM investigation has uncovered the harrowing story of 2,000 Maltese individuals who during the Second World War were removed for internment in Italy.

This fate was shared by all members of the Maltese community in Tripoli, a good number of whom were born in Malta or Gozo. The vast majority of them survived the war years in concentration camps alongside internees from Slovenia and Croatia, Italian political prisoners and Jews.

New TVM documentary sheds light on their forgotten plight

Mario Xuereb meets former Maltese internees and other members of the Tripolini community in Australia – they gather every Wednesday at the Tripoli Social Club in Melbourne

Researched and written by TVM journalist Mario Xuereb, the documentary “Maltin Internati fl-Italja – Storja Vera” (Maltese Internees in Italy – a True Story) will reveal the hitherto unknown ordeal hundreds of families passed through during the war away from their place of birth. The first episode of the documentary is scheduled for transmission on Tuesday 25 September on TVM at 9.30pm (CET).

Evidence of the forgotten plight of the Maltese Tripolini is found in the historical documents held in several archives all over Italy. The documents caught TVM’s attention as Italian researchers were conducting research on concentration camps built by the Italian Fascist Regime for the confinement of war internees.

The documents include lists with scores of Maltese names of individuals who between 1940 and 1945 were interned in Italy. The documents also include references to single anecdotes and to the sufferings experienced by the Maltese during their time in Italy: hunger, imprisonment, beatings, rape and death.

A group of Maltese internees at Fossoli concentration camp in 1944

The majority of the internees returned home at the end of the war in 1945 only to find that they had lost everything and had to start afresh.

In the course of its investigation TVM identified and interviewed a number of Maltese who survived the concentration camps and the internment in various Italian comuni.

Most of the interviews were conducted in Melbourne in Australia where a good number of former internees re-built their lives. Others shared their stories from Canada and Malta. A TVM crew carried out interviews and filmed on site at two major Fascist Concentration Camps, set up by the Italian Regime during the Second World War, the remains of which are still standing.

The former internees themselves have spoken to TVM about the painful memories and the brutalities themselves and their peers had to endure. They also confirmed the contents of the documents as recorded by the Italian Fascist bureaucracy and prison guards.

An interview with former internee Jane Zammit neé Cassar

The stories of the Maltese who lived in the concentration camp

Concetta Ellul tells of the day when her father was mortally wounded in the concentration camp at Le Fraschette and also of how her sister was raped by German soldiers.

Rita Meilak, at the time Camilleri, recalls how all the Italians at Fiuggi were fascists who viewed the Maltese with contempt. Jane Zammit neé Cassar speaks about how Italians in central Italy looked down upon the Maltese because of their roots and taunted them about the outcome of the war.

On the other hand, Piero Grech praises the citizens of Modena and Carpi for showing mercy and for lending a helping hand to the Maltese held at Campo Fossoli.

In 1943 there were 800 Maltese internees at Le Fraschette concentration camp

The story of the Maltese internees in Italy is being told for the first time in a three part-documentary with the first episode scheduled for transmission on TVM on Tuesday 25th September 2018.

It provides insights into life in the concentration camps with exclusive photos showing hundreds of Maltese inside the concentration camps.  The other two episodes will be broadcast on Wednesday 26th and on Friday 28th September respectively.

You can get a glimpse of this documentary which consists of photos, footage and interviews with former internees in this short feature.