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Living Standards, Northern Italy, Winter 1944-1945

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by SUPERMARINA » Fri Oct 14, 2005 10:46 am

Hello Gentlemen,
I have got a strange, but important question.
During winter 1944-1945 what were the living condition of the home front in Northern Italy?

Was coal available for home use? Were gas and electricity available during all the day or only for some hours a day? What was the standard condition of life for civilians during that winter? Were there any substantial differences in the various counties (Emilia, Lombardia, Piemonte, Veneto ect?).

Thank you for any suggestion of yours or, maybe, some relative' souvenirs.

EC

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by FB » Sun Oct 16, 2005 10:35 pm

SUPERMARINA wrote:Hello Gentlemen,
I have got a strange, but important question.
During winter 1944-1945 what were the living condition of the home front in Northern Italy.
Was coal available for home use? Were gas and electricity available during all the day or only for some hours a day? What was the standard condition of life for civilians during that winter? Were there any substantial differences in the various counties (Emilia, Lombardia, Piemonte, Veneto ect?).

Thank you for any suggestion of yours or, maybe, some relative'souvenirs.

EC

Ciao Enrico,

very interesting question. And one of great interest for me too as the day by day life of civilians in those days (i.e.: my grandparents and parents as young kids) has always had a special thing for me about it.

There's a book that you might want to read that covers what you are looking for:

La calma apparente del lago di Como e il comasco tra guerra e guerra civile 1940-1945
Roncacci Vittorio ; Macchione Editore
EURO 19,00

The author, Mr. Roncacci, is, as far as I remember a teacher who passed a lot of his time researching the subject. The book is very interesting, IMHO, because it is based also on the local newspaper archives, thus giving the reader the news that a civilian would get at the time. Caveat: as it is true for several authors dedicating their efforts to the period, Mr. Roncacci is "politically oriented" (and it has to be so in order to gain access to some archives in Como - I'm sure you know which one I'm talking about), but it is so in a fair way and does not, ever, render his book not readable.

The book takes into account various aspects of the day by day life of the time: food availability, housing (the ten of thousands of civilians escaped to Como and surrounding areas starting from 1943, the bombings on Milano, and increased after 8 Sept, a lot of RSI Officials lived in the city), criminality, labor etc.

Best regards

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by voloire » Mon Oct 17, 2005 1:53 am

You camn also get a look at
SALO' - Vita e morte della Repubblica Sociale italiana
by Silvio Bertoldi - edizioni BUR.

There is a very good reconstruction of life during the last winter of war in all the cities of the RSI, made by the official ( and many times secrets) reports.

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by SUPERMARINA » Thu Oct 20, 2005 8:32 am

Thank you guys,

I'll look for the books. but a brief description of the living conditions (first above all the coal for home warming, electricity and gas cooking) during the 1944-1945 winter for al the readers would be welcome.

Bye

EC
 

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by FB » Thu Oct 20, 2005 10:00 pm

SUPERMARINA wrote:Thank you guys,

I'll look for the books. but a brief description of the living conditions (first above all the coal for home warming, electricity and gas cooking) during the 1944-1945 winter for al the readers would be welcome.

Bye

EC

As far as I know, coal for home warming (and I mean real coal) was something of a dream during the last winter of war. My grandparents used wood and charcoal (carbonella). In my area (Como) electricity was not a big problem very probably because of the vicinity with a lot of hydroelectric plants. There's a cement plant in the area, established in 1925, and as you might know, this industry is extremely energy-intensive both in terms of heating energy (you have to "cook" raw material at about 1.350 C° in order to obtain cement) and electrical energy (you have to grind to a sort of flour consistency, in electrical mills that are high energy consumers, raw material before cooking it and clinker (the result of cooking) after cooking it. You certainly know that cement, as well as other important materials, was declared to be strategical by the Government in the '30ies IIRC. As result prices of the same were Government controlled (i.e. prices were fixed by the Government upon consulting the industry representatives about production costs and other factors). I guess that this situation also made the industry high priority in the distribution of supplies. That cement plant (founded and owned by a Swiss company) managed to never interrupt the production, logically a part from several blackouts and some kilns shut down due to temporary coal shortages (ever more frequent as the end of the war neared). The main problem for the plant was the availability of spare parts (machines were mainly German, Krupp-Polysius, and I think that Krupp, especially towards the end, dedicated all its remaining energies to weapons) and of fire-bricks for the kilns. As a result, maintenance of the plant became something of a nightmare, and in May 1945, when the war ended, the plant needed practically to be rebuilt as machinery had run well beyond its capacity without effective maintenance.

Food in the area was never (at least it never was for my grandparents) a dramatic problem. Granted: they maintained a very shaped up physical form, but they never suffered from hunger, nor had their kids. The food officially available, the infinite art of making up (arrangiarsi) and the ubiquitous black market, made the satisfaction of basic (sometimes very basic) food needs something possible.

Best regards

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by GLADIVM » Thu Nov 03, 2005 11:50 pm

I can tell that my parents who at the times lived in Padova did not suffer for lack of food, but were cold in winter due to lack of coal . their bigger problem was that their home was bombed so they had to move with friends for a short before finding another home.

From what I understood their home was not destroyed but become unsafe so they had to move out .

For some more info about life during RSI, you can check this link, it is mainly about life in Firenze but is an extract from a book which talks about everyday life in RSI also in other cities.

http://www.italia-rsi.org/vitacivile/fi ... quotidiana

Yours

GLADIVM

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by gbotto » Fri Nov 04, 2005 7:42 am

If I still lived in New Jersey, I would ask my grandmother what it was like to live in Turin during the war years.

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by piero1971 » Tue Nov 08, 2005 8:54 am

my dad told me that in the Piemonte region, they had a shortage of everything - mainly heating so wood was used from trees, etc. food was scarce as well, especially sugar and other basic stuff.
Fortunately, my grandfather was serving in the "Guardia di Finanza" in both ww1 and ww2 and so could take back home some of the stuff confiscated from smugglers and black marketers.
 

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by SUPERMARINA » Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:37 am

Thank you.
It would seem, so, that during winter 1944-1945, the main problem in Northern Italy was heating or, if you prefer, a lack of coal for home use.

EC

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by Gian » Wed Nov 09, 2005 1:03 am

I once read that during the 43/44 (or 44/45) winter, attempts were made to recover coal from the bottom of harbors (e.g. Genoa). It was to be dried up and used in factories. However, I do not know if the effort was successful.
Firewood often came from trees growing in the streets, occasionally hit during air raids or by civilians who didn't hesitate to quest the curfew to knock them down with saws or axes.

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by FB » Wed Nov 09, 2005 1:10 am

Gian wrote:I once read that during the 43/44 (or 44/45) winter, attempts were made to recover coal from the bottom of harbors (e.g. Genoa). It was to be dried up and used in factories. However I do not know if the effort was successful.
Firewood often came from trees growing in the streets, occasionally hit during airraids or by civilians who didn't hesitate to quest the curfew to knock them down with saws or axes.

Trees along the streets and in public gardens were commonly targeted by people in search of firewood: they went for the branches as the whole tree was too big to be handled in what was an illegal action. Also, trees in private gardens were "looked after", if they were not guarded and/or already taken care for by the owners...

Best regards

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by Libralesso » Sat Nov 26, 2005 10:14 pm

As far as I know from family experience, was there not an extreme lack of even food within the cities? I mean my grandfather even told me of trucks being converted into using a type of steam furnace, I would guess lumber or flammable material would be used for the fire and steam, for energy.

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by GLADIVM » Thu Dec 01, 2005 4:18 am

Recently had the chance to read a couple of letters written in the early months of 1945 from Milano and its hinterland and they say that the most pressing problem was the continuous bombing and strafing by allied airplanes.
Also, it is clearly mentioned that there was not lack of food, it was available in reasonable quantities but prices had become crazy, 600 Liras for one Kg. of salt.

Other mentioned worry was the lack of news from friends and relatives, still in winter 44/45 people did not know what had happened to friends or relatives after 8th Sept 43 and were asking any known acquaintance if they had news of any type.

Yours

GLADIVM

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by Libralesso » Thu Dec 01, 2005 8:09 am

Also is clearly mentioned that there was not lack of food , it was available in reasonable quantities but prices had become crazy , 600 Liras for one Kg. of salt .

Why was that though exactly? Was there no government control overpricing? Or was it simply demand?

There also must have been a considerable black market at the time? no?

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by Lupo Solitario » Thu Dec 01, 2005 9:22 am

Libralesso wrote:
Also is clearly mentioned that there was not lack of food , it was available in reasonable quantities but prices had become crazy , 600 Liras for one Kg. of salt .

Why was that though exactly? Was there no government control over pricing? Or was it simply demand?

There also must have been a considerable black market at the time? no?

There was a VERY HUGE black market...practically everything was sold under the table, it's something on which all time sources agree.

My grandparents in their rare memories of war spoke often about lack of food. All agree that meat had become an extremely rare item.

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by FB » Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:41 pm
Lupo Solitario wrote:
Libralesso wrote:
Also is clearly mentioned that there was not lack of food , it was available in reasonable quantities but prices had become crazy , 600 Liras for one Kg. of salt .

Why was that though exactly? Was there no government control over pricing? Or was it simply demand?

There also must have been a considerable black market at the time? no?

there was a VERY HUGE black market...practically everything was sold underdesk, it's something on which all time sources agree.

My grandparents in their rare memories of war spoke often about lack of food. All agree that meat had become an extremely rare item

I agree, or, rather, my grandparent's also rare war memories coincide with those of your elders. The main source of animal protein at the time were eggs. Meat, beef, cheese, etc. were extremely rare to find. If you managed to find it officially, that is through the ration system, quantity and quality left much to be desired. Through the black market, you could find practically everything you want, but the prices were unaffordable, most of the time, for common people.

Those who worked for industries had a further chance to increase their diet as the enterprizes were compelled by the government to provide food for their workers. This was done through industries owned gardens and orchards for instance. Through most of the "green" stuff was available for workers. What lacked, mostly flour and meat, was to be bought, in theory, through the ration system. But since these products very often were lacking, also the industries, in order to keep the situation calm inside the plants, had to rely on the black market (sometimes the authorities, aware of the illicit activity, just played along, for the same reason: social peace.

In my city, where literally hundreds of RSI officials had their residence and where if not them personally, lived their families and friends, not considering the hundreds of wealthy families that escaped here for fear of the bombings, the black market was roaring. And it was favored by the vicinity with Switzerland with which a neverending contraband activity was going on (and had always been, also before the war and after).

Best regards

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by Figlio di un Alpino » Wed Jan 04, 2006 3:44 pm
From what my mother told me, the country folks were actually better off than the city people because being on the farm the "contadini" grew all their own food. Even with what the Germans stole they were still OK. But it was much different in the cities, some folks got hungry there.
 
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