Forced labour at the front: Russian, Serbian, and Romanian prisoners

ita eng
15 March 2021

Thousands of prisoners of war - mainly Russians, but also Serbs and Romanians - were employed in Tyrol during the First World War. A photo gallery by Marco Abram, OBC Transeuropa researcher

A few months after the outbreak of the First World War, the belligerent powers found themselves having to deal with an ever-increasing number of prisoners. In a conflict that squeezed all the resources of the countries and companies involved, they became an indispensable source of labour and ended up being forcedly employed even for the war effort, although this was explicitly prohibited by international conventions. To support military operations in the conflict with Italy, Austria-Hungary transferred and employed thousands of prisoners of war in Tyrol, mainly Russians, but also Serbs and to a small extent Romanians (while Italian prisoners were generally transferred away from the front). This is a little known story, which we have tried to tell in the past and we pursue again in the project Gli ultimi della grande guerra: memoria in rete, led by Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra  of Rovereto.