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Chapel represents part of Indiana’s role in WWII

EDINBURGH, Ind. (WISH) – During Indiana’s 200th year, the Indiana Historical Society has been preparing an exhibition highlighting a little known way the state played a big role in World War II.

Part of the role included the detainment of thousands of prisoners of war from Italy and Germany. In the final years of the war, Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh held 3,000 Italian POWs and later 8,000 Germans.

Decades since their departure, a piece of history remains from the Italians’ time spent on the Bartholomew County property.

The society’s “You are There 1943: Italian POWs at Atterbury” will feature the story behind a small chapel that sits on the camp’s north end.

The chapel was built by a group of Italian POWs. The men had asked permission to create a place to worship.

“It is the only structure remaining from this camp that housed thousands of prisoners and not only did they leave that but they left parts of themselves here. Many of them came back and married American girls and started families and are still part of the fabric of the state and the country,” Daniel Shockley, director of museum theater for the Indiana Historical Society said.

The chapel was constructed with scrap materials the POWs found around camp including wood, concrete, berries for paint and paint brushes made from horse hair.

Visitors to the Indiana Historical Society will be able to walk through a life-sized replica of the chapel when the exhibit opens in the spring of 2017.