A temporary exhibition on smugglers and refugees between Italy and Switzerland during the Second World War.
The border with Italy was by far the area which saw the most intense levels of smuggling. The exhibition traces the history of smuggling, focusing on its most memorable period: the Second World War. Spared from the expansionist ambitions of the menacing Axis powers, Switzerland was literally invaded by an army of smugglers. Men, women and even children from the Italian border villages saw this tough and dangerous activity as a means of alleviating their difficult financial situations.
In those turbulent years, with the centre-north of Italy occupied by the Wehrmacht and ravaged by civil war, thousands of military and civil refugees, especially politicians and Jews, poured into Switzerland. Around 26,000 military and 12,000 civilian refugees were granted entry into Ticino and Mesolcina, of whom around 4,500 were Jews. But many people were also turned away. Some of the Jews who were refused entry were arrested and deported to Auschwitz, from where few returned.