Italian Heritage in South Africa

Italian Prisoners of War in South Africa During the Second World War

On the featureless plains of the South African Highveld, a sign, in Italian, reads Cimitero Militare Italiano. The signpost seems strangely out of place in the predominantly Afrikaans cultural landscape. The cemetery honours the 312 Italian prisoners of war (POWs) who remained behind in South Africa when their compatriots left at the end of World War II. Theirs was not a choice; they died waiting for the end of their plight. After the war, some POWs chose to stay in South Africa and adopt the country as their new homeland. Many more returned to South Africa over the next few years. These new South Africans contributed much to their adopted country, but even those that departed and never returned, left an indelible signature on the landscape of South Africa.

Families Stories

Magiagalli Family

In May 1881, a group of Italians arrived in Knysna, South Africa, having travelled via Britain from various towns in Italy to set up a silk farming industry.

Saporito Family

They had 10 children. Their sons were Giuseppe, Umberto, Pietro (who died at 9 months), Petro Angelo and Albert Ernest. Their daughters were Louisa, Anna, Vittoria, Angelina and Rosa Josepha (who died in infancy).