Italians: Doing the Jobs Germans Won’t Do

By MILTON BRONNER
(NEA Service Staff Correspondent)

London, July 27 — Germany has just seen arriving the last contingents of the greatest mass emigration of Italians in recent years — the result of an agreement between Reichsfeuhrer Hitler and Premier Mussolini.

But they are only temporary emigrants. Within the year they must all be back in Italy, the last ones returning to their native land by next December 15.

Their mass coming to Germany seems almost paradoxical. The Nazis boast they have cut down unemployment by millions. But, according to their own figures, there were about 500,000 people still unemployed. But apparently these workless ones are not suited for farm labor. Hence the demand for Italians — 22,000 men between the ages of 18 and 40 and 8000 women between the ages of 18 and 30. In many cases the men and women are married couples, but without young children.

They hail mainly from the northern provinces of Italy, there being 2100 from around Ferraro,  2300 from Padua, 1800 from Bologna, 1500 from Ravenna, 2100 from Rovigo, 1300 from Verona, 1300 from Venice and 2300 from Modena. Many of these towns are known the world over because Shakespeare laid the scenes of his plays in them. But these peasants have not gone to Germany to recite poetry or to carol. They are going to cultivate and later, to dig up sugar beets and potatoes.

*     *     *

Last March 300 gang chiefs were sent to Rome to get their final instruction. Each gang chief is responsible for the earnest labor and good conduct of 100 peasant workers. Forty special trains took the army laborers to Germany. They have been scattered mainly in central Germany and in Saxony, Bavaria, Wurtemberg, Baden and Hesse.

The temporary emigrants were not taken at haphazard. The Fascist Confederation of Agricultural Workers selected those who were known to be physically the strongest, morally the best-behaved and technically the most competent. A sort of set uniform of clothes was chosen for the men and the women and given them by the Italian central organization. They were also given a valise of a uniform type, a contract for their employment, a passport and a little guide book, filled with choice sayings by Mussolini and Hitler, glorifying the role of the peasant in the life of Germany and Italy.

*     *     *

Germany guaranteed all the workers free railway passage to and from Germany, free lodging and meals. In addition, they get the equivalent of a German peasant workers’ wages — 7.60 lire per day — or about 40 cents. The Italian government will pay part of this to the families of the workers. In this way Italy will cut down the commercial debts it owes Germany, for what Italy pays the workers will  be deducted from its debt to Germany.

Even though the 30,000 will be in Germany many months, they are made to feel that the eyes of their rulers are upon them and also that they must uphold the honor of Italy. For in their little guide-book there is this significant passage:

“You, peasant, quit your country today for the moment; you are not as formerly, an emigrant that is to say a poor pariah like so many others, humiliated, wandering, knocked about seeking work. By the merit of the regime you depart in organized service as an Italian, as a soldier of the great Fascist army of Labor, as a creator, as an instrument of activity, solicited, guaranteed, defended in all circumstances.”

Dunkirk Evening Observer (Dunkirk, New York) Jul 27, 1938

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