oa South African Journal of Cultural History - The Zonderwater Italian prisoners of war 1941-1947: fifty years down the line

Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-3053



Hundreds of thousands of Italians were captured by the Allied forces in the East and North African campaigns (1940-1943) of the Second World War. As South Africa proved to be one of the most suitable countries (situated far from the front, with ample space), in which to detain prisoners of war (POWs), about 90 000 Italians were imprisoned there during the war. The majority were kept in the Zonderwater POW camp outside Cullinan between 1941 and 1947. Excellent conditions and good relations prevailed in the camp, with the result that thousands applied to immigrate to South Africa after the war. Due to the Nationalist Party's strict immigration policy, this never materialized. A small part of the heritage that serves as a reminder of the presence of the Italian ex-prisoners of war in South Africa over the last fifty years, is discussed in this article. In March 1941 specifications for a prisoner of war camp outside Cullinan near Pretoria, drawings of its layout and details of each block in the camp were sent to the Secretary of Public Works by the Secretary of Defence. Initially the camp would consist of tents and ablution facilities, showers, kitchens and sinks. Approximately 1 634 men had to be accommodated in each block.

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