Ragazzi deportati durante la grande guerra
Ragazzi deportati durante la grande guerra, di Bruna Bianchi
During the First World War hundreds of thousands of men, women and young people were deported from the regions occupied by the German army. In 1916, after the offensive at Verdun, the Germans decided to replace their losses by calling up German workers exempted from military service and by deporting thousands of Belgians and French. The essay focuses on the sufferings of boys and girls sent to the prison camps in Germany or along the entire front line, from Verdun to the Belgian coast. Based on several personal accounts and depositions, the essay describes the deportees’ terrible living and working conditions, their sufferings from the lack of proper food and clothing and very harsh treatment. Crowded into wagons or open cattle cars, girls were taken out to remote rural areas to work in the fields, whereas boys were sent to the front line where they worked digging trenches, burying dead soldiers, breaking stones, mending roads and repairing railways, frequently exposed to shelling. The death rate among young deportees remains unknown: many of them died of privation and overwork, many others never recovered their health and there were certainly deaths from tuberculosis in post-war years.
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