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Book review - Stalin’s Italian prisoners of war by Maria Teresa Giusti


Evening all.

A few months ago I watched a presentation on Youtube by WW2TV. The featured historian gave a presentation on German prisoners of war captured by Russian forces. During the course of the talk, the historian briefly mentioned a book which dealt with Italian soldiers captured by the Russians.

I found the book on Amazon and made the purchase. Whilst I found the book not easy to read for long lengths of time, I did find it interesting and enjoyable.

This is not a military book that deals with warfare, military doctrine. military equipment etc. It deals with suffering of soldiers captured in a foreign country where atrocities were committed by both sides and where little forgiveness was forthcoming if you were captured by the enemy.

The book commences with a short history of the commencement of the Italian deployment to Russia which is clear and easy for the reader to understand. Then comes the main part of the book which is split into three sections.

1 The capture and transportation of Italian soldiers. As you may expect, the author details some of the treatment handed out to Italian soldiers In the field and later in the prison camps. However, I came away with the opinion that whilst there were some cases of atrocities committed by Italians, the treatment of Italian prisoners was a lot better than their German allies. This part of the book also looks at life in the camps.
2 A large section of the book deals with how the Russians tried, and in some cases succeeded, to indoctrinate Italians with anti fascist propaganda. This section makes interesting reading as the Russians used Italian soldiers to spread the good word of communism not only for camp life but to take back to Italy on their release.
3 Finally, the book ends with the repatriation of captured Italian soldiers which was a slow laborious procedure which did not end until 1954. The author goes into detail how the Italian government and some individuals kept up pressure of the Russians for the return of any Italian soldiers in captivity. Also included in this section was how the Russians dealt with Italian soldiers accused of war crimes.

In order to be able to write this book, the author has used memoirs from Italian soldiers and perhaps more interestingly, used recently released Soviet archive material. Unsurprisingly, the author in the appendix admits that there still is a lot of missing data due to the poor records kept by the Russians.

The author has included 33 photographs some of which were Russian propaganda photographs. The book does record the atrocious conditions of the Russian prison camps and some of treatment handed out to Italian prisoners. This has to be accepted as it did happen and helps to give a complete picture.

I do recommend this book if you wish learn about the Italian soldier during World War 2 and is a good addition to anyone who has other books certainly in the English language on Italy’s involvement in Russia.

Regards to all,