Italy / Landmark
During 1944, the Pia Casa di Beneficenza (Pious Charity Home), the town's historic charitable institution, became a concentration camp.
Institutions for orphaned and abandoned children have existed in Lucca since the 16th century. Among the most famous of them was the Quarquonia. In 1822 the Deposito di Mendicità per gli orfani e i vagabondi [Begging Home for orphans and vagrants] was founded, from which the Pious Charity Home was born in 1851.
In 1895, the institution moved to its final headquarters in Via Santa Chiara, in the former Monastero dell'Angelo, built in 1830 for the Passionists and designed by Lorenzo Nottolini. The new facility, which covered more than 10,000 square metres and was equipped with drinking water and gas lighting, included the orphanage, as well as a hospice for the disabled and a beggar's hospice, reaching a total capacity of 350 guests.
In 1944, the institution was transferred to Bagni di Lucca while the building was requisitioned by the Germans, who made it a camp for all the forced labourers rounded up in the Tuscan coastal area.
The first group was the 400 Livornese people arrested by the SS between Suvereto, Castagneto Carducci and San Vincenzo. They travelled 150km on foot, reaching Lucca on 23 June, and were than sent to the Gothic Line or to Germany. In the following weeks, over 3,000 transits per day were reached. The damage to the railway and the shortage of vehicles slowed down marshalling operations. The conditions were terrible: rotten straw beds, a scarcity of food and water, a cold and damp environment, in addition to physical and emotional harassment.
The population was unable to provide any support to the inmates. Exceptions to this were the Oblati del Volto Santo [Oblates of the Holy Face] and four Red Cross women who were in charge of health care and mail sorting.
On 2 August, Father Aldo Mei was also brought here, and was later killed on the evening of 4 August outside the walls. The last internees were those rounded up between 20 and 31 August. At dawn on 1 September, the Germans retreated, without following through on their threat to blow up the building.
In total, more than 70,000 people passed through the Pia Casa. In the post-war period, the opera assistenziale took over the buildings, although heavily damaged, and continued its activities until 1985.
Today the spaces are occupied by IPSIA (Instituto Pace Sviluppo Innovazione Acli) and a nursing home. In front of the building, a stumbling block was placed on 8 January 2020 (see image) as a reminder of the suffering endured by the inmates.
Via Santa Chiara, 8, Lucca