Stalin’s Italian Prisoners of War

Giusti book cover
$95.00 / €80.00 / £68.00
Publication date: 
June, 388 pages, 33 black-and-white photos

This book reconstructs the fate of Italian prisoners of war captured by the Red Army between August 1941 and the winter of 1942/43. Of 230,000 Italians left on the Eastern front almost 100,000 did not come back home. Testimonies and memoirs from surviving veterans complement the author’s intensive work in Russian and Italian archives.

The study examines Italian war crimes against the Soviet civilian population and describes the particularly grim fate of the thousands of Italian military internees who after the September 8, 1943 Armistice had been sent to Germany and were subsequently captured by the Soviet army to be deported to the USSR. The book presents everyday life and death in the Soviet prisoner camps and explains the particularly high mortality among Italian prisoners. Giusti explores how well the system of prisoner labor, personally supervised by Stalin, was planned, starting in 1943. A special focus of the study is antifascist propaganda among prisoners and the infiltration of the Soviet security agencies in the camps. Stalin was keen to create a new cohort of supporters through the mass political reeducation of war prisoners, especially middle-class intellectuals and military élite.

The book ends with the laborious diplomatic talks in 1946 and 1947 between the USSR, Italy, and the Holy See for the repatriation of the surviving prisoners.

Introduction: The Tragedy of the ARMIR
Chapter 1: Capture and Internment 
Chapter 2: Russia and Prisoners of War 
Chapter 3: In the Prison Camps
Chapter 4: Antifascist Propaganda
Chapter 5: Repatriation
Chapter 6: The Final Negotiations
I. Problems and Gaps in Data Collection
II. The ARMIR’s Fallen, and the Men Who Went Missing .

“Over almost 20 years, Giusti has explored an amazing number of Russian and Italian archives, and the result of her effort is a monumental scholarly work. Giusti masterfully deals with a wide range of very different sources (party documents, secret police reports, diplomatic cables, private diaries) and builds up a genuine research book, which is deeply empathic. This book is a milestone for the international scholarship not only on the Soviet Gulag, but also on the social history of the Soviet violence and the history of memory of war and war crimes.”
"This is the first major English-language study of the fate of the roughly twenty thousand Italian soldiers held by Soviet forces during and after the Second World War. It fills an important gap in the English-language literature on Axis prisoners in Soviet captivity, and deserves praise for painting a full picture of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) in the Soviet Union from capture to repatriation. It is a valuable resource for anyone interested in Soviet forced labor and incarceration, prisoners of war, Italians on the Eastern Front, or Italian-Soviet relations."