Headquarter and political office of the Legione Autonoma Mobile “Ettore Muti”; since 1947 is the location of the Piccolo Teatro Grassi.
In 1947 Paolo Grassi and Giorgio Strehler founded the Piccolo Teatro in the building situated in via Rovello 2. A commemorative plate on the facade of the building also reminds everyone that this used to be the headquarter and political office of the Legione Autonoma Mobile “Ettore Muti” during the German occupation.
The security rooms and isolation cells located on the first and second floor are where partisans, Jews, and civilians used to be locked up, interrogated and tortured.
The Legione Autonoma Mobile “Ettore Muti” (that owes its name to the former secretary of the Partito Nazionale Fascista killed during Badoglio’s forty-five day government) originated from the homonymous squad of action created in Milan on 18th September 1943 by Francesco “Franco” Colombo, former Army Corporal and devoted fascist, and from a handful of members of a former hit squad which contributed to the emergence of Fascism in Milan during the 1920s.
The first recruits were former inmates of the reformatory in Vimodrone, with the addition of common criminals escaped from their prison in San Vittore and many youngsters.
In the months following its establishment, the Muti was promoted by the Minister of the Interior of the RSI Guido Buffarini Guidi to the rank of Battaglione mobile ausiliario di Pubblica sicurezza (Auxiliary Mobile Battalion of Public Security), and on 18th March 1944 took the name of «Legione autonoma mobile Ettore Muti».
Around twenty-one troops and operational teams were created, acting both in the Milan area and the north-eastern part of Piedmont.
The Legione was renowned for its round-ups operations, as well as the thefts, the lootings, the arsons and the shootings of civilians and partisans. During the course of its existence it was responsible for at least thirty-six round-ups, from March 1944 to March 1945, nineteen of which took place in Milan and its province and twelve between Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta. In thirteen cases, the Legione operated together with German military forces and directly under German command, while in other ten operations they were supported by the departments of the GNR (Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana) and the local black brigades. In all other cases it acted on its own initiative.
The Legione had an office of political police, endowed with its own mobile team, whose role was preventing and repressing any form of opposition to the Repubblica sociale. It relied on information extorted through torture by the political office and on a network of informers; other than the numerous denunciations, the mobile team identified and arrested partisans, antifascists, deserters, civilians and enemy soldiers on the run. Between 25th February and 15th April 1945 they carried out more than one hundred fifty arrests.
On 25th April 1945, during the general upheaval, the 120th brigade Garibaldi occupied the headquarter of the Muti, but its members managed to flee.
Before the partisans’ arrival, about two hundred “mutini” left, together with Colombo, the barracks in via Rovello, and moved towards Como through the lakes in a vain attempt to reach a fleeing Mussolini.
Once the mediation with the Cln failed, the group split up in Cernobbio. Franco Colombo was captured by the partisans and shot in Lenno on 28th April.