Indiana Historical Society Tells Forgotten Tale of Italian POWS at Camp Atterbury


We highlighted the Indiana Historical Society’s Eli Lilly-themed You Are There exhibit in the January/February BizVoice. I’d just like to reiterate how intriguing and impactful these experiences are, and make you aware of IHS’s upcoming offering about Italian POWs at Atterbury in 1943, which opened March 4.

An IHS release provides the background:

In one of the Indiana Historical Society’s (IHS’s) most moving You Are There exhibits to date, visitors will be introduced to Italian prisoners of war in the chapel they built at Camp Atterbury—their home away from home.

The exhibit, You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury, debuts March 4, 2017, and runs through August 11, 2018, at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in downtown Indianapolis.

In 1943, approximately 3,000 Italian POWs were held at Indiana’s Camp Atterbury. Today, this largely forgotten story from the Hoosier home front during World War II lives on as part of the camp’s history and through the descendents of many POWs.

“This story surprised me,” said Angela Wolfgram, IHS exhibits researcher. “Kindness is a big part of it. Interactions were friendly, unlike what we picture for a POW camp. Also, I was struck by how much the Italians appreciated their time at Atterbury. It wasn’t summer camp, but they enjoyed the food, the interactions with central Indiana residents, recreation time, and even religious freedom. I think this is a hopeful story, and we need hopeful stories.”

Guests to You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury will step into a recreation of the still-existing “Chapel in the Meadow” as actors portraying POWs are completing paintings on the walls. In addition, visitors may interact with actors portraying American soldiers, including Chaplain Maurice Imhoff and Lt. Col. John Gammell, commanding officer of the internment camp.

Outside the chapel portion of the exhibit, guests will discover the history and present-day use of Camp Atterbury through text and photographs. They will uncover the meaning of Italian iconography and see a slideshow presenting the various aspects of the POW camp experience.

You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury is presented by Jane Fortune and Franciscan Health, with support from the Italian Heritage Society of Indiana.

For more information about You Are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury or other IHS exhibits and resources, call (317) 232-1882 or visit www.indianahistory.org.

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