Last year’s Battle of Caporetto saw the Austro-Hungarians conquer a large swathe of territory in northern Italy. Many of the civilians who lived here fled before the Austro-Hungarian advance, but many others stayed in place. This region was only incorporated into Italy after 1866 and folk memories of Habsburg rule were often positive. The local Catholic clergy was particularly keen to see the replacement of Italy’s anti-clerical regime with the more church-friendly Austro-Hungarians.
However, the actual experience of occupation has been less positive. The initial advance of the Austro-Hungarians saw a wave of pillage and abuse by the Habsburg soldiers. Thereafter the Austro-Hungarians established an extractive regime, seeking to take as much food and other resources from the territory as possible. The Austro-Hungarians have seized all of the area’s livestock and are now eyeing up other foodstuffs as well as fodder, manure and general household goods.
Caporetto also saw large numbers of Italian soldiers surrendering to the Austro-Hungarians. The sufferings of these unfortunates is now considerable. Austria-Hungary is beset by food shortages, to the extent that it has recently had to cut the rations of its own frontline troops. Enemy prisoners come last in food queue, so the rations Italian PoWs are receiving are completely inadequate. No no help comes to the captured Italians from their homeland: the Italian government, viewing soldiers who surrender as traitors, has blocked the despatch of food parcels.
The result for the Italian prisoners is starvation. In their camps in Austria-Hungary they are now suffering a higher mortality rate than that of frontline soldiers. So desperate is their situation that when a man dies of starvation, his comrades hide the corpse so that they can continue drawing his meagre ration.
Italian prisoners, possibly recently captured (Wikipedia: World War I prisoners of war in Germany)