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Italian exhibit commemorates World War I with previously unpublished documents

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ROME - Previously unpublished World War I images and documents are on display at Italy's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier starting Saturday, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the bloody conflict that many historians say united Italians in common cause for the first time.

The exhibit features images of executions and emaciated prisoners of war that were censored during wartime, as well as notifications for military tribunal death sentences that were posted on the streets of Rome.

It also includes videos, letters and diaries that detail the horrors of trench warfare. "Now we are like beasts that are hunted," wrote a 37-year-old Italian corporal. "You go to the slaughterhouse without realizing it."

Much of the material was discovered in government archives through a re-cataloguing process that began in 2006.

Franco Marini, head of the national anniversary committee, said that the war, which mobilized millions of soldiers from all over the country, was instrumental in constructing the nation's identity after Italian unification in 1861.

"They came from completely different realities," he said. "It was three years, not just 15 minutes, three years that they lived together, day and night, sharing the same dangers."

A modern series of photographs by Luca Campigotto revisits the remains of trenches, shelters and villages on the Italian front. An interactive iPhone and iPad app allows visitors to learn more about the history behind the photos during their visit.

Marini said the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a particularly apt location for the exhibit because it "is the emblem of the great sacrifices made during the world war."

The exhibit runs till July 30.

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