Intercept, sabotage and protect: telephones and the resistance in Italy, 1942-1945

10/29/2008 - 00:00 AM

  • Intercept, sabotage and protect: telephones and the resistance in Italy, 1942-1945
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During the Second World War, telephone workers played an important role in the conflict. In Italian cities that suffered damage from aerial bombing campaigns, the retrieval of damaged material and restoring communications became the main activity of many telephone workers, while during the overall resistance struggle, sabotage and the interception of communications were the main goals.
In Milan, telephone workers initially began organized resistance in the summer of 1942, when a group of engineers established a line of contact with the Giustizia e Libertà movement. However, it wasn't until September 8, 1943 that the first group of partisans was established at STIPEL. However, in March 1944, almost all of the leaders of this group were either arrested or shot. In September that year, telephone workers took up their clandestine activities once again, this time in close contact with the Matteotti partisan groups. The Telecom Italia Archives “Goi Collection” contains records of actions undertaken by the Milan partisans, including the interception of phone calls from fascist command posts and then subsequently passing on this information to the CLN (Committee of National Liberation).
According to memoirs from Rocco Nicolais, a member of the STIPEL CLN in Turin, Piedmont region partisans concentrated on sabotage not so much through major demonstrative actions that caused great damage, but by causing "minimal" damage to lines and switchboards. This tactic was particularly effective as it was difficult to repair faults that were hard for non-experts to spot. These operations were carried out by the most skilled engineers who, with "afterwards" in mind, would be able quickly to restore the affected telecommunications devices to working order. Many company managers were also actively thinking about "afterwards". During the most bloodthirsty clashes, their priority was to preserve the greatest possible amount of equipment by hiding it safely away.

Sources:
- Telecom Italia Archive, Joint archive: Goi Collection, Envelope 3, Telephone interceptions
- Telecom Italia Archive, Library: