Rab


In 1941, Germany attacked the Yugoslav kingdom with the support of Italy and Bulgaria. After Yugoslavia surrendered the same month, Yugoslavia was divided between the occupying powers. Parts of the Yugoslav coast (now Croatia) fell to Italy, which immediately began a search for dissidents and other hostile elements that constituted, or were suspected of posing, a threat to Italian rule. People were imprisoned and executed and Italian methods were not far behind the brutality of the Germans in occupied territories.

At the end of July 1942, Italy established a concentration camp outside Kampor on the island of Rab where dissidents were brought. Initially, the prisoners were put in tents and only later wooden barracks were established for the prisoners. The prisoners were divided into different categories and also put in different sections depending on the category. The camp was surrounded by barbed wire fences and watchtowers. It was mainly Slovenes, Croats and Jews who were put in the camp. Inadequate facilities caused thousands of prisoners to die of cold, starvation and disease. There were executions as well.

In mid-July 1943, when Italy began to tremble after a peace with the allies, the camp’s jews were evacuated to the Italian mainland. At that time there were about 7400 prisoners in the camp, of which about 2700 were Jews. In august that year, all the Jews were released in the camp so that they would not fall into the hands of the germans. About 250 Jews remained, however, and joined a Yugoslav party brigade. When Italy surrendered to the allies on September 8, 1943, the camp was abandoned by the Italians without a fight and the prisoners themselves took over the camp.

Remaining Italian soldiers were shipped over the next few days to Italy. Only about 200 old and sick Jews remained in the camp when the germans arrived. They were then sent to Auschwitz. After the war, the camp was demolished. About 15,000 people sat in the camp during its existence. The number of victims is difficult to determine and only about 1500 are confirmed, but probably the figure is higher than that.

Current status: Demolished with monument (2022).

Location: 44°46'56.07" N 14°42'47.28" E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

Rab – Kampor is said to have been the largest Italian concentration camp that was established and is in any case the most famous. Italian concentration camps otherwise easily fall into oblivion in comparison with the much better-known German counterparts. Partly because later attention has been paid to a greater extent, partly because Italy (perhaps) has not made up with its history to the same extent as Germany has done. The fact that it was the largest Italian camp meant that for many years I had it on my list of places I want to visit. But it still took about 10–15 years before it fit into my planning. It is perhaps not inaccessible but still out on an island that you easiest travel to by ferry (20 minutes from the mainland) and then drive the rest of the way.

There is, to my knowledge, nothing left of the camp, nothing that is at least documented or known. Since 1965, Kampor has had a memorial site with both monuments and tombs. It is characterized by a softer version of social modernism and has been supplemented with information in several languages, including English and German. It is large enough, atmospheric and just enough information. Given the warm and dry climate that prevails during the tourist season, this is probably what the tourists who find there are able to take in.

Follow up in books: Reale, Luigi: Mussolini’s Concentration Camps for Civilians: An Insight into the Nature of Fascist Racism (2011).