DP Camps in Italy
Before the outbreak of the war the Jewish community of Italy numbered about 50,000 people. In 1938 the Fascist Government of Benitto Mussolini, which had been establishing power in Italy from 1922, introduced under the pressure from Nazi Germany, the first anti-Semitic legislations. After the overthrow of the dictator Mussolini in 1943, northern and central Italy were occupied by Nazi Germany. Almost immediately Germany started rounding up and deporting members of the local Jewish communities. Jews were interned in transit camps and from there 8,000 people were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Yet, about 40,000 Italian Jews managed to survive the Holocaust either in hiding or by fleeing to the Allied-occupied parts of the country. Italy surrendered in April 1945 - notable for being the first Axis power to surrender. As a result of 1946, monarchy in the country was abolished and a new Italian republic established. The new republic accepted the Marshall plan and in the 1950s joined the NATO.
For Holocaust survivors, Italy became the main transit point point en route to Palestine. In 1947 there were 30,000 Jewish DPs in Italy, gathered in camps ran by UNRRA with help of other organisations such as ORT.
ORT's work in Italy started in the end of 1946, much later than in Austria and Germany. The main reason for this was that the camps in Italy were seen as the last stop before reaching Palestine and therefore Italian DPs were more interested in moving on as fast as possible, rather than attending long-term vocational courses. Most of them believed that they would not stay in the camp long enough to learn a new trade. In Italy, unlike in Germany, there was therefore no large scale spontaneous organization of vocational training by the DPs themselves.