The importance, implications, and role of sports in Italian prison camps during the Great War

Research papers
By Jean-Pierre Favero

Italian army officers experienced particularly harsh living conditions in Austro-Hungarian and German prison camps. In contrast with the treatment received by other allied nations, Italian prisoners were neglected by their high command and the Italian government, which viewed them as cowards. This was amplified following the rout of the Battle of Caporetto in October 1917. To endure their imprisonment, the Austro-Hungarian and German command allowed these officers to engage in sports activities, which was not the case for soldiers. The prison camp journals started by Christian or Socialist officers give us repeated accounts of cultural and sports activities offered in order to relieve boredom, idleness, and depression within the framework of the Casa del Prigioniero. Football teams aptly named ‘Pro Patria’ and ‘Presti Liberi’ were formed in each camp, where numerous spectators watched the games. The proceeds of the games, whose spectators were charged a fee, were donated to the poorest people in the camps. Athletic competitions, as well as boxing and wrestling matches also took place, along with tennis matches, a reflection of pre-war sporting practices.

  • Italian officers
  • sport
  • prison camps
  • First World War
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