Escaped Exiles of Duce Allege Life of Horrors

Robert Sage

Chicago Tribune/August 9, 1929

Lipari Hangs as Sword Over Italians, They Say

PARIS, Aug. 8—“The threat of deportation to the Lipari Islands hangs like a sword of Damocles over the heads of all of Italys 40 million inhabitants with the exception of the Duce and the royal family.” This is the statement of Prof. Carlo Rosselli, Emilio Lucini and Francesco Nitti, who found a haven at Paris after a miraculous escape from the group of islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea where Premier Mussolini is charged with shipping off the suspected enemies.

“A special tribunal of five executives has the authority to condemn anyone any time to five years’ exile on the flimsiest pretext,” the refugees said today. “No proof is necessary—the slightest suspicion is sufficient to condemn a victim. Abuses are frequent and there are many men condemned through private hatreds or simple business competition.

“For example there is the case of a peasant who was condemned because a Fascist marshal loved his wife.

Exiles are Shackled

“But the most awful feature of the deportation is the trip from home to the islands, which is a veritable hell on earth. This trip ordinarily takes from 20 to 40 days, and the prisoners are forced to wear handcuffs continually for 50, 100, even 150 hours. They have no privileges of eating, sleeping, reading, or writing during the journey from town to town. Transportation in a stuffy, windowless car is a furnace in the summertime and an icebox in the winter.

“At night, when they arrive at a new town, the prisoners are forced to undergo two hours of formalities and then thrown into a filthy cell, which resembles an animal’s cage. It is so small it is impossible to lie down on the floor comfortably. They are given a piece of bread and one cover. After this the sea voyage comes as a real joy with its fresh air and sunshine.

Life on Island Dreary

“But this is short lived and them comes the dreary life on the island, with a money allowance so small that prisoners are barely able to buy necessities. Some manage to be fairly happy; others abandon themselves to despair. Some work, some become entirely slothful. But all are closely watched day and night.

“The first months, after institution of exile camps in 1926, were the worst. At Lampedusa 17 hours south of Sicily, the prisoners were forced to live in a common room and were treated so abominably that one took his own life. At Tremiti, on a malarial rock less than a mile square the prisoners were quartered with 160 inhabitants in seven houses and were only allowed to promenade in the yard 100 yards square.

“Following the campaign in the foreign press conditions were finally bettered, and most of the prisoners were confined to the three islands of Lipari, Ustica, and Ponza.

20 Exiles in One House

“In transporting the prisoners from Ustica to Ponza last year, a group of 50 men, unjustly accused of plotting against the government, were fasted to 1,600 pounds of chains ad thrown into the hold of the vessel Garibaldi. At present there are only twenty prisoners at Ustica, but they are isolated from the whole world in a single house.”

The escaped trio say they have proofs of many cases of provocation on the part of militia.

(Source: Chicago Tribune Archives,