Giovanni Magnabosco was born on 1 April 1897 in the Italian town of Zugliano near Vicenza. After graduating from school, he began an apprenticeship as a tailor at his father’s company. Subsequently, he served in the Italian army and was made an officer. A staunch supporter of Mussolini, Giovanni Magnabosco took part in the “March on Rome” in October 1922. From 1935 on he was deployed as a soldier in Abyssinia (today’s Ethiopia) and later on in Albania.
After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, Giovanni Magnabosco was supposed to transfer to the Eastern front, being a member of an army allied to the Germans. Instead he chose to be deployed in the German Reich and became the commandant of a POW camp of the “Erla Maschinenwerke GmbH”. Leipzig’s second largest armaments manufacturer produced jet fighters for the German Luftwaffe and made use of forced labourers to achieve this.
Following the collapse of Italian fascism in the autumn of 1943, the status of Italian soldiers changed drastically – the former allies became foes. Those who refused to continue fighting on the side of the Wehrmacht, were declared military prisoners of war. They were arrested, disarmed and used as forced labourers by the Germans. In the racial hierarchy of the National Socialists, they represented one of the lowest rungs. Their living and working conditions were worse than those of many other forced labourers.
Givonni Magnabosco became a Italian military prisoner of war in this manner and had to work for the Erla factory. Together with 500 other Italians he was housed at the “Gasthof Thekla” inn at 120 Bölckestraße (called Tauchaer Straße today), which the company had rented as a camp. The forced labourers accommodated there had to work at the main factory of the “Erla” works.
Although Germans and forced labourers were prohibited from fraternizing, Giovanni had a romantic relationship with a Leipzig woman. In 1944 the couple had a daughter, whose parentage the mother had to keep secret until the end of the war.
After the end of the war, Giovanni Magnabosco initially stayed in Leipzig. In December 1945, however, he had to return to Italy by order of the Soviet Military Administration. There he resumed his occupation as a master tailor.
Giovanni Magnabosco passed away on 11 January 1983 in Vicenza aged 86.