Asinara, Italy, May 17 (MTI) – President János Áder and Defence Minister István Simicskó on Tuesday inaugurated a memorial on Asinara island near Sardinia dedicated to WW1 Hungarian soldiers.
For decades the painful secrets of Asinara were known only to the mass graves, Ader said at the event. He is the first Hungarian politician to visit the island, which is home to the remains of thousands of Hungarian soldiers.
The memorial marking the former prisoner of war camp is a place to remember human suffering, even if the majority had already died while being transported there, he said.
The soldiers captured on the Serbian front in 1914 were “herded” for 800 kms through the Balkans, then transported by ship to Asinara. Out of 85,000 POWs, only a few thousand returned home, some well after the end of the war. Research shows that the majority of those that died were from Hungary. The fate of the POWs had been unknown for decades — that is until a documentary by Gábor Margittai and Anna Major last year told their stories. The island was closed to tourists and researchers until 1997, so the remains of the camp have survived.
Áder expressed thanks to those who had once helped the Hungarian POWs.
Áder is being accompanied by First Lady Anita Herczegh during his two-day visit. They viewed a historical exhibition on the lives and deaths of Austrian-Hungarian POWs in Stintino town and also paid tribute to them at a Hungarian chapel opened on the island a hundred years ago. He paid respects at the graves of Italian soldiers and laid a wreath at the “bone chamber” which holds the remains of some 7,000 POWs.