Headquarter of the Comando Aeronautico from 1941 and shelter of hundreds of German soldiers after 25th April 1945.
In 1935, the city of Milan appointed the engineer Secchi, who designed the building of the Cozzi pool, to design the new Comando Aeronautico destined to be built in piazza Italo Balbo (today called piazza Novelli). Its construction started in 1938 and was finished during the First World War, in 1941, with the finishings to be completed only in 1948. The complex is built using exclusively national materials, in particular Apuan marbles. Its trapezoidal shape occupies most of the block, and it’s made up of two main buildings and two barracks. There is also the chapel of the Madonna Lauretana, patron of the aviators.
This is where, after 25th April 1945, hundreds of armed German soldiers hid to escape from the partisan forces and wait for the allies to arrive.
The GAP and SAP forces were scarce, and not capable of achieving a resolution on their own. On 27th April, however, the situation changed with the arrival to Milan of the troops from Oltrepò, lead by commander Luchino Dal Verme, who settled in the nearby schools in viale Romagna.
On 28th April, at dawn, two contingents of the Oltrepò, together with some SAP units, surrounded the building and occupied its strategic points. According to Giovanni Pesce’s report of those days: «an armed partisan is checking every window of the ground floor, ready for action. Others are watching the windows of the higher floors. The Germans are hiding in the basements, and claim they will surrender only to ‘regular army forces’». Luchino Dal Verme’s response, interviewed in January 2003, was “we, the partisans, and only the partisans, are the regular army forces now”.
Several hours of tension followed, with the German requests for a ‘negotiation’ swiftly denied by Dal Verme, who sought unconditional surrender. Dal Verme recounts how he feared some of his fellow partisans would lose their patience and start shooting, while his objective was to avoid further bloodshed. He said: «Until, suddenly, a German captain, “large and strong”, said to his comrades: “it’s over, let’s surrender”». Pesce reports that «the Germans, after picking up their personal belongings, came out of the basements, throwing their weapons to the ground and lining up in perfect order». The last risk Dal Verme run was when he personally went down and checked the basements, but nothing else happened there.