Italian military internees


The largest group was made up of Internati Militari Italiani (Italian Military Internees, abbreviated as IMI), a term given by the military and political authorities of the Third Reich to officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy captured by the Wehrmacht in the days immediately following 8 September 1943, in the cities, southern France and the Balkans.
By classifying them in this way, instead of – as required by international law – “prisoners of war” (Kriegsgefangenen), Berlin was able to deprive them of the protection of the International Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva and at the same time keep alive the idea of the Axis between the two major fascist powers, Germany and Italy (the latter under the guise of the Italian Social Republic).
A total of 650,000 IMIs were detained until August 1944 in military prison camps dependent on the military districts (Wehrkreise) into which the Reich was divided: the officers in the so-called Oflager (camps for officers), the non-commissioned officers and soldiers in the so-called Stammlager (mother-camps).
In August 1944 the IMIs were transformed, in a dictatorial measure, into forced civilian workers, and a significant number were transferred to the so-called Arbeiterlager (camps for foreign workers, subject to strict control), while others were kept where they were, but with a different status.
The military prison camps were under the authority of the supreme command of the German armed forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, abbreviated to OKW) and – like the camps for foreign workers, which will be discussed later – had nothing to do with the KL, which instead reported to the SS, by now closely intertwined with the state police (from 1936 onwards, Heinrich Himmler was in fact both supreme commander of the SS and head of the German police; in August 1943 he would also become Minister of the Interior). Over 90% of the IMIs managed to survive imprisonment, while those who died numbered about 50,000.
Analytically, it is more correct to see their situation as “military internment” and to refer to them with the term IMIs.

To learn more:

LeBI – Lessico Biografico degli IMI-Internati Militari Italiani

Albo degli IMI (Internati Militari Italiani) caduti nei lager nazisti 1943-1945