Category Archives: Casa della Memoria

P.G. 59 on Track to Become a National Monument

P.G. 59, during my visit to the camp in November 2010

I received exciting news yesterday from my friend Anne Bewicke-Copley, a Trustee of the Monte San Martino Trust in London. Senator Francesco Verducci, who represents the Marche Region in the Italian Senate recently put forth legislation to designate the site of former P.G. 59 POW camp in Servigliano a National Monument.

On Friday, March 5, the Senate Chamber passed the bill unanimously at its first reading. It now goes to the Chamber of Deputies for consideration. If the bill passes the chamber, as expected, it will advance to President Sergio Mattarella to be signed into law.

The following news item, written by John Simkins, was posted yesterday on the Monte San Martino Trust website:

The Italian Senate, parliament’s upper house, voted unanimously on March 4th 2021 for the former prisoner of war camp at Servigliano in the Marche to be made a national monument. The bill now passes to the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, where it is expected to be approved and passed into law once it is signed by President Matarella.

The initiative is an important step in securing the future of PG 59 Servigliano, with its long, and in many respects, tragic history of holding prisoners. During the First World War the captives were Austrians; in the next conflict the inmates were captured Allied servicemen and Jews. It then became a refugee centre and is now known as Parco della Pace.

The bill was presented by a Marche Senator, Francesco Verducci, and supported by Liliana Segre, a Senator for Life.

Senator Verducci said: “The former prison camp of Servigliano is a symbol… part of a memory map that links countless cities throughout Europe. A map that must be traced and preserved, to hand over the memory of what has been. Memory needs places to live. A society that loses its memory remains blind, without identity and without a future.”

He added that the law was linked to the cultural and political battle to strengthen the study of history in schools. 

Supporters of the former camp have worked hard over the years to raise interest in preserving it, starting with the renovation of the former railway station, which is now the home of the Casa della Memoria. Marco Rotoni, the mayor of Servigliano, said that the Casa della Memoria’s committee, supported by the province of Fermo, intended to restore the former camp’s infirmary, for which a project had been presented to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage. It was also planned to develop memory trails. “As a municipality we have already approved the allocation of some funds and we hope that, thanks to the help of both national and local institutions, all these works will be able to see the light in a short time,” said Mr Rotoni.

The former PoW camp, through which passed thousands of prisoners and which is one of the best known in Italy, is the base of an annual Freedom Trail organised by the WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society and co-hosted by the Monte San Martino Trust. The Trust was founded by Keith Killby, who escaped from Servigliano and found refuge at the nearby village of Monte San Martino.

Watch Senator Verducci’s presentation of the bill to the Senate on YouTube. (To view closed captioning in English or another language, select your language preference under “auto-translate” in “settings.”)

The barracks, or “huts,” of P.G. 59, photographed by Tony Vacca during his visit to the camp in 1968


Interior view of the wall photographed by Tony Vacca in 1968


To see other photos of the Camp 59 taken by Tony Vacca, see “Twenty-five Years After the Escape.”

Purchasing Casa Monti

an old italian brick house

Casa Monti

Ian McCathy of Casa della Memoria, the association dedicated to preservation of the history of P.G. 59, is spearheading a crowdfunding initative for community purchase of a historic building, Casa Monti, in Servigliano:

gofundme.com/f/acquisto-casa-monti

According to gofundme.com, “the big house is used by various community groups and currently to temporarily house young people in difficulty and migrants, and which also houses the Servigliano English Library. There is no set time frame for this project but we hope to achieve the goal within 1 year from August 2020. The aim is to preserve the social use of the property where other community projects can be developed.”

“The house was the original base of Casa della Memoria before we had the museum in the old station,” Ian wrote to me, “but it’s now used by other associations.”

For families of Allied POWs who were sheltered by courageous local Italians after the P.G. 59 breakout, this an excellent opportunity to show gratitude. I encourage you to support this worthy endeavor, and I will look forward to seeing many British and American names on the donor list in months to come!

A Future Home for Casa della Memoria

After years of collecting documentary material and recording stories related to the history of Camp 59, an educational center is in sight for members of the Associazione Casa della Memoria (the House of Remembrance) of Servigliano.

The old train station—through which Allied prisoners were brought to camp—will be renovated. The building has been granted to the association for its educational mission.

The old Servigliano train station viewed from the north.

The front of the station faces the northwestern wall of Camp 59. At one time tracks paralleled that wall of the camp.

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Casa della Memoria on Facebook

The Associazione Casa della Memoria (House of Remembrance Association) of Servigliano, Italy, is now on Facebook.

While the focus of the “Survivors of Camp 59” site is on World War II, the camp has a longer history.

According to the Casa della Memoria website, the association’s broader remembrance of the past is defined in this way:

“These events left their mark on the history not just of the small community of Servigliano, but also of the many villages that overlook the Tenna Valley.

“Recovering the memory of all these events involving the Prison Camp is a duty we have to the people who lived through those difficult times, but also to the new generations. The events can be divided into three moments, in relation to the three great dramas of the 20th century:

the First World War;
the Second World War;
the Cold War.

“Each of these moments can be seen as a ‘crisis of values’ in our society, the enslavement of human intelligence and of resources to ideologies that claimed to be absolute, leading to an apocalyptic climax of destruction and death:

the use of the Camp during the First World War was due to nationalism;
the use of the Camp during the Second World War was due to Nazi-Fascism;
the use of the Camp during the Cold War was due to totalitarian socialism.

“Among the various Prison Camps scattered around Italy, the one in Servigliano permits a possibly unique reconstruction of twentieth-century history and its twisted ideologies.”