Zonderwater Italian POW Cullinan

Zonderwater – a concentration camp in South Africa Reportedly the biggest detention camp built by the Allies during World War II. The camp, built alongside the mining village of Cullinan, hosted from April 1941 to January 1947, more than 100 000 Italian soldiers captured by the British on the North and East Africa fronts. The Zonderwater human adventure starts from the tent city of 1941, transformed in 1943 into a huge and permanent built-up area formed by red bricks and wooden
constructions then bound to become almost a legend: “14 blocks, each of them made up, normally, by 4 camps (there were 44 in total). Each camp hosted 2 000 men, therefore a block could accommodate 8 000 prisoners. Overall, Zonderwater had a total capacity for 112 000 men. The Zonderwater museum archives keep 109 000 cards, one per POW, filled in at the camp at the moment of entry and containing biographical data and information given by the POW on his army corps and date of capture.

Today the Zonderwater museum, which overlooks the well-tended military cemetery, is lovingly curated by the first-generation Italian immigrant, Emilio Coccia. Inside is a poignant collection of artworks made by the prisoners, including paintings, sculptures and musical instruments, as well as handwritten illustrated textbooks. One of the most famous former prisoners, Edoardo Villa, stayed in South Africa after the war and became a celebrated sculptor. Some of his sculptural pieces can be seen in the grounds. Visits by appointment only. www.zonderwater.com +27 (0)12 667 3279 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.