Robert Gildea
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Camps as crucibles of transnational resistance
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This chapter explores how internment and POW camps, which were designed to segregate internees by national or political categories and to crush political sentiment, often ended up producing transnational encounters. Camps in France and the French Sahara threw together unlikely groups such as former International Brigaders, Spanish republican refugees and leaders of European communist parties. Camps on Italian islands and on the mainland gathered anti-fascist political prisoners, former International Brigaders, captured Yugoslav resisters and Jews. German POW camps near Bremen and Munich allowed cooperation between Soviet, French and Serbian prisoners and links to forced labourers outside the prisons. Camps became centres for political education, often masked as cultural or sporting activity, and developed communist and anti-fascist resistance thinking and activity. They also provoked disputes between communists and anarchists, or between national groups, not least for access to posts of organisation in the camps. Links might be established with resistance networks outside the camps; active resistance within the camps was provoked by attempts to draft, deport or transfer internees to other camps. Lastly, internees who escaped from camps came with both military and political capital to lead resistance movements in France, Italy, Poland or Romania, reproducing transnational connections and activities.

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Fighters across frontiers

Transnational resistance in Europe, 1936–48

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