Politecnico di Milano

Active center of the Resistance against fascism thanks to the Rector Gino Cassinis and numerous professors and students.

Like all Italian universities, the Politecnico also saw many of its professors and students enlist in the Partito Nazionale Fascista. Between 1922 and 1940, there have been 17 cases of dismissal from the university for political reasons, and 11 more for racial reasons.

Nonetheless, on 29th January 1944, the assembly of professors voted unanimously for the new rector Gino Cassinis, who refused to give his oath of allegiance to the Repubblica Sociale Italiana. With Cassinis, the Politecnico became an important operation center for the Resistance. As a matter of fact, Cassinis was personally active both in the small spaces conceded by the RSI and in his collaboration with the CLN.

He covered conspiratorial activities, protected students and staff who didn’t serve in the military, hid scientific instruments to prevent them from being seized, and appealed to German and Italian authorities in order to obtain permits, essential supplies and other material.

On the initiative of the engineer Bruno Setti, head of the air defense service, some partisan action squads have been formed, and their weapon depot was right inside the Politecnico. They also installed an illegal radio station in the basement of the university, with radio transmitters and a telephone switchboard, managed by prof. Gian Battista Boeri and engineer Francesco Moschettini, arrested in September 1944 and deported to Mauthausen, where he died in January 1945.

The same treatment was given to the professor of thermotechnics Michelangelo Böhm, who was deported as a consequence of the antisemitic laws and died in Auschwitz with his wife Margherita Luzzatto.

Other famous victims of the fight for freedom were the student of architecture Giorgio Labò, born in Modena in 1919, shot in Rome in Forte Bravetta on 7th March 1944 by a platoon of the Polizia dell’Africa Italiana, and Gianfranco Mattei, assistant to Giulio Natta and later professor of analytical chemistry.

In October 1943, Mattei embraced his illegal fight and moved to Rome, where he devoted his time creating explosive devices for the partisan groups. Was arrested and tortured in via Tasso, and eventually killed himself in prison on 7th February 1944. He was 26 years old. A room of the Politecnico bears his name and, in 1953, a plate with an epigraph by Piero Calamandrei was hung outside his house in via Lazzaretto 16.

During the national upheaval of April 1945, the university was occupied by the 116th Divisione Garibaldi and the committee of the Brigate SAP for about fifteen days. In one of its rooms, on 28th April 1945, the former fascist gerarca Achille Starace was put on trial and later shot in Piazzale Loreto.

Gino Cassinis, in 1945 already a member of the Comitato Onoranze Caduti per la Libertà, remained rector until 1960, was elected mayor of Milan and remained in charge from January 1961 to 13th January 1964, the day of his death.


Massimo Castoldi