Bruno Trentin, ten years after

A biography of documents and images

By Archivio storico CGIL nazionale

the National CGIL Historical Archive

A family in exile. The Trentin family in the European Antifascism scene (1926-1943), Manuela Pellarin, 2017, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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Bruno Trentin was born on 9 December 1926 in Pavie, France, having his father Silvio - professor of public and administrative law at the University of Venice and a follower of Giovanni Amendola - decided to go into exile with his family so as not to submit to the fascist impositions that punished the freedom of teaching and opinion.

A very young Bruno with Franca and Giorgio by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

The family is made up of Silvio, his wife Beppa Nardari and his sons Giorgio and Franca, who are 8 and 7 years older than Bruno.

Return to San Dona di Piave (1943-09-06) by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

Silvio, Beppa, Giorgio and Bruno (Franca remains in France) return to Italy after the fall of Mussolini a few days before September 8th.

The war diary (1943-09/1943-11) by Bruno TrentinArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

It is then that Bruno, not yet seventeen, begins to write his journal de guerre, compiled in his native language, French.

Silvio and Bruno are arrested and imprisoned in Padua in mid-November 1943, then released but under surveillance.
In prison Silvio is struck by a new heart attack: he is hospitalized first in Treviso then in Monastier where he dies in March 1944, after having dictated to Bruno in January a sketch of a plan tending to outline the constitutional figure of Italy at the end of the federalist revolution in progress and drafted a final appeal to the Venetian workers.
Bruno, who was not yet 18 years old when his father died, dedicates himself body and soul to the war part igiana under the pseudonym Leone: first in the Treviso area especially in the Prealps above Conegliano, then, after the German roundup in the summer of 1944 in Milan, under the orders of the National Liberation Committee of Alta Italia and Leo Valiani, to whom his father had entrusted him before dying.

The 25th of April of Bruno Trentin (1945-04)Archivio storico CGIL nazionale

The University years (1944/1951)Archivio storico CGIL nazionale

After the Liberation Bruno enrolls in the Action Party. He lives in this period between Milan, Padua - where he enrolls at the university in the Faculty of Law - and Treviso where his family resides.

He participates intensely in the troubled history of the Action Party until its dissolution in October 1947. Meanwhile he goes to the United States, to Harvard, thanks to the interest of Gaetano Salvemini, to deepen the graduation thesis.
Graduated in Padua on October 16, 1949, at Norberto Bobbio's Institute of Philosophy of Law with the thesis «The function of fairness judgment in the contemporary legal crisis (with particular reference to the American legal experience) ". Speaker Enrico Opocher, Bobbio's substitute who recently went to Turin.
The documentation relating to Trentin's academic career is kept in the General Archives of the University of Padua.
His application for enrollment in the first year of the Faculty of Law is accepted by the Council of the same Faculty on 12 February 1944, even if the session is recorded almost two years later, on 29 January 1946. As shown in the registration booklet, he is assigned the matriculation n. 3839.

The University years (1949/1951)Archivio storico CGIL nazionale

The first three exams (History of Roman law, Legal medicine and Institutions of Roman law) are transcribed by the Secretariat and not signed by the professor in charge of the course.

The University years (1944/1951)Archivio storico CGIL nazionale

During his studies he prepares three term papers in Civil Law, Political Economy and Administrative Law.

60° Di Vittorio (1952) by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

After graduating, at the end of 1949, Bruno is called by Vittorio Foa to join the CGIL Research Department as a researcher.

Thus he moved to Rome becoming one of the closest collaborators of Giuseppe Di Vittorio.
In 1953 he had a moment of hesitation and asked, due to the disagreements with the head of the Studies Office, to go to the PCI. Di Vittorio does not let Trentin go away, who will remain at the Confederation Studies Office until his designation as FIOM Secretary.
Only in 1950 will he enroll in the PCI, joining the Central Committee in 1960; in 1963 he was elected deputy.
In 1954 he was a member of the first trade union delegation in China after the Maoist revolution.

Trentin, Foa, Santi and Lombardi (1955-07-08/1955-07-09) by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

He remains at the Research Department even after the death of Giuseppe Di Vittorio, becoming Deputy Secretary of the Confederation in 1960.

On the Labor Plan (1949)Archivio storico CGIL nazionale

He participates in various initiatives concerning the CGIL work plan.

After the serious defeat of FIOM in the elections of the internal Fiat Commissions, he is sent by Di Vittorio to Turin to understand what was wrong and the changes in the conditions of the workers. The report, drawn up with the leaders of the Turin Chamber of Labor, is decisive for changing the strategy of the CGIL and in particular the orientation of Di Vittorio, determining the so-called return to the factory of the union.

Exhibition of books in the atrium of the EUR palace (1956-02-27/1956-03-04) by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

The true watershed of Bruno's thought however, it took place in the years 1956-1957, following the events concerning socialism in the countries of Eastern Europe and in particular in Hungary.

Siding on Di Vittorio's side, Trentin is among the protagonists of the battle for the renewal of the communist cell of the CGIL and the Roman Federation of the Party, with strong political solidarity with the positions taken by Antonio Giolitti in the context of the VIII Congress of the PCI.

Strike at Fiat (1962-07) by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

In February 1962 he was elected general secretary of the FIOM, he will hold office for fifteen years, until 1977.

Years later Piero Boni wrote in "FIOM. 100 years of an industrial union": «Luciano Lama was elected secretary of the CGIL in January 1962 and left the FIOM. Lama's succession was the subject of lively confrontation between socialists and communists in the CGIL and the FIOM. The former believed that, after the Confederal Congresses of Rome and Milan, as there were no longer any differentiations between the two currents on trade union policy, a socialist could access the post of general secretary. The latter objected that the unity of trade union politics did not cancel out the fact that the Communists were the majority in the organization. The question was resolved with an original formula, the only one adopted in the history of FIOM, by two general secretaries "(Piero Boni," FIOM. 100 years of an industrial union ", Meta-Ediesse, Rome, 1993, p.163) .

From the diary of Bruno Trentin (1962)Archivio storico CGIL nazionale

Thus in his completely unpublished personal diary, Trentin talks about his early years at the helm of metalworkers: «The struggles in Milan, my first experiences. The Gramsci Convention: a lesson for me. I have to continue studying. It takes very little to find oneself […] ".

May Day 1968 (1968-05-01) by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

My first negotiation experiences. I feel tested and this excites me. Rarely does one have the opportunity in such concrete and proper terms to pass over to the other side of the fence and become the protagonists of a phenomenon that was previously critically observed […]

The strike at Fiat is an unforgettable day. The monstrous heat […] the first attempt to establish a living personal relationship with distant faces, abstract entities. In the evening in front of the gates of the Mirafiori. I seem to dream […] In front of the same gates on August 4th morning. The strike swings, then, at the last moment, close to 6, he takes off his shoulder and bows his head. Never so vivid is the sensation, the cinematic vision of defeat. September, the fight against Fiat and the negotiations [...] The agreement signed at dawn ".

Unitary demonstration of Fiat workers (1971-05-18) by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

Pushed by the student and worker struggles of the 1968-1969 two-year period, Bruno's commitment is mainly aimed at affirming the experience of the Union of councils until its constitution in October 1972 of the Federation of Metalworkers.

He will remember years later:" I remember well a party meeting held in Frattocchie in April 1970, basically to put on trial the decision of the FIOM to take on the Councils as the basic unitary structure of the union in the workplace, to put an end, therefore, to the experience of the internal commissions [...] The attack carried out on the decisions of the FIOM was immediately made explicit with the interventions of Giorgio Amendola and, subsequently, of Agostino Novella, who had recently left the leadership of the CGIL [...] Pietro Ingrao intervened and sided without reserve in support of the choice made by FIOM [...] Luciano Lama, new secretary of the CGIL, asked that a space of autonomy was left to the Confederation, so that it could take a meditated decision on the Councils [...] The conclusion of the debate was entrusted to an apparently Solomonic speech by Enrico Berlinguer "(Br one Trentin, "Warm autumn. The second two-year period 1968-1969 ", interview by Guido Liguori, Editori Riuniti, Rome, 1999, pp. 123-135).

The factory, Lino De Seriis, 1970, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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The days of Brescia, Luigi Perelli, 1974, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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Crossed Arms, Elena Bedei, 1976, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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Young people. The job. The crisis, Ugo Gregoretti, 1977, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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IRES Press Conference (1979-01) by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

After resigning as FIOM secretary, Bruno is part of the National Secretariat of the CGIL, where he directs various sectors of work: economic and industrial democracy, labor market, public employment, studies and research etc. in recent years the idea of ​​the business plan, the IRES (Institute of Economic and Social Research of the CGIL), the Higher Training Institute and the Legal Labor Council.

Trentin and Lama, Piero Ravagli, 1978-02, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
Notes on Buozzi, 1984-11, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
Antonio Pizzinato and Bruno Trentin, Piero Ravagli, 1988-11, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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Closeup of Bruno Trentin by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

November 29, 1988 he was elected Secretary General of the CGIL.

General Secretary of the CGIL (1988-11)Archivio storico CGIL nazionale

The first act of its Secretariat is the programmatic Conference of Chianciano in the following April. Trentin breaks the delay and illustrates his project, putting forward the hypothesis of a new CGIL, trade union of rights, solidarity and the program.

It is the starting point of a self-reform process that will continue with the organization conference in Florence of November 1989 and the Rimini Congress of 1991 to end in Chianciano in June 1994 with the programmatic conference of the Confederation. On the organizational level, the most important change is the dissolution of the historical components connected to the reference parties of the Italian left. In this way , the dynamic between majority and opposition would have developed within the union not so much on the basis of proximity to a party or a governing coalition, but by virtue of the division or not of a government program of the organization.

Ingrao to Trentin (1989-01)Archivio storico CGIL nazionale

In terms of claims, the CGIL agrees to contribute to the reform of collective bargaining and to discuss with public and private interlocutors the introduction of the income policy through rso the system of concertation, identified as the main tool to bring the explosion of the national debt under control; both of these themes will be introduced with the historic agreement signed in July 1993 with the Ciampi government.

The tax reform, Bruno Trentin's comments, Funzione Pubblica CGIL, 1989, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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Walesa's visit to the national headquarters of the CGIL, Piero Ravagli, 1989-04, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
Trentin meets Lula, Piero Ravagli, 1990, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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In Rimini, between January 31 and February 4, 1991, on the occasion of its XX Congress, the Italian Communist Party is officially dissolved. The Rimini Congress is the final act of a harsh and intense debate that kicks off on November 12, 1989, when the then secretary Achille Occhetto announced the change of name of the Party in Bolognina, a popular district of Bologna. br>

At the XXth Congress of the PCI (1991-02) by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

"I believe - Trentin will say from the stands - for this reason, that the greatest limitation we have faced in recent years - even during the metalworkers' dispute - has been the renunciation of investing workers, in all phases of contractual disputes (and not only after things have been done) even painful choices that must always be made, when a reform movement and an autonomous political subject, such as the trade union, does not intend to delegate to others (whether it is the political forces, the State or, in worst case, of the bosses) the selection among their own requests, or the question of the economic, political and social repercussions of their claims and their achievements. Class solidarity among those who are different, the affirmation of the primacy of the rights and freedoms of all, in all workplaces, entail adult democracy in the trade union and in relations between trade unions and workers. An adult democracy capable, that is, of measuring itself against the costs and constraints of solidarity; with the costs and constraints of struggle and power relations, with the costs and constraints of a project based on priority choices, not fungible with others, on the affirmation of new, non-exchangeable and non-monetizable rights. The great battle for democracy that opens up in the workers' movement is this, in the moment in which the 'mastery of workers over their activity' is assumed and the conquest of new rights of new powers, as the frontier of social conflict for the governance of processes of transformation, restructuring and ecological reconversion. And it is here that the break with an old essentially authoritarian relationship takes place between a party that holds the primacy of politics and a corporate and subordinate union, perhaps strong, sometimes, of a plebiscitary consensus, in the indiscriminate collection of protest and discontent, but only capable of delegating true choices to others; that is, those that are destined to affect the daily conditions of work, life, freedom, of every single worker. For this reason, I believe that the recognition of the trade union as an autonomous political subject and the necessary battle to guarantee its cultural and political autonomy - which gives legitimacy to its authentic decision-making democracy - are not marginal issues in the construction of a strategy of the alternative of the Democratic party of the left, which intends to base itself on the primacy of programs over the old camps. And also for this reason it seems to me, really, that without a project and a decisive action for an institutional reform of civil society, such as to reconcile it with a state that we want to transform, even our proposal for electoral reform and regionalization of the state are destined to remain in the narrow context of a confrontation (if not of a fight as the PSI seems to want) between parties and power groups ".

Anti-mafia National demonstration, Palermo, June 1992 (1992-06) by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

On June 27, 1992, a large unitary demonstration ("Italy civil part") saw more than 100,000 people parading in Palermo against the mafia and for legality. "The mafia power must be isolated in the conscience - will be the request of the Cgil, Cisl and Uil contained in a document released in those days - weakened in its connivance with the polluted sectors of the institutions, public administration, entrepreneurship, parties" . "We - will say the then general secretary of the CISL Sergio D'Antoni, illustrating the initiative together with Bruno Trentin and Adriano Musi (of Uil) - we want to give witness to Falcone, determining a continuous and constant popular movement that is a stimulus and pressure for all constitutional powers ”. "We want to build a new relationship - added Trentin - between the public security forces and the citizen: an important junction for a real defense of the territory".
Participation in the event is so massive that thousands of people cannot even reach the square Politeama, point of confluence of five processions, and crowd along the surrounding streets. The uninterrupted influx of demonstrators continues after the speeches of the general secretaries of the CGIL, CISL and UIL. "A lump in the throat chokes Bruno Trentin's voice - he will report the day after the Unification - to him who for decades has been shouting workers' rights in the squares, when he evokes a future redemption in the name of his deceased friend: dear Giovanni, that day will come ... ».

Bruno in the mountains by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

Bruno told Stefano Ardito in June 1989: «I can climb at least once a month, and a fortnight every summer [....]

Bruno in the mountains by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

Basically, this is precisely the difference between mountaineering and any other sport. There is an intellectual commitment, there is that much risk that forces you to pay attention, to reason. After years in the mountains, I discovered with joy that mountaineering is the only thing that makes me live for 12 hours without thinking about anything else […]

Bruno in the mountains by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

I have always known the mountain, understood as a walk. I started climbing when I was just over thirty, gradually. First I took a guide, I did some easy routes in the Dolomites. Then, one Sunday, I went to see the Gran Sasso: I had recently been in Rome, I was already deputy secretary of the CGIL ".

Bruno in the mountains by Author unknownArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

Apart from the gyms, it means that I can climb three or four routes to the Gran Sasso, and a dozen in the Dolomites. It is a space that I have conquered over time, and which I defend with my teeth […] It took me some time to understand it: for me, climbing has become a therapeutic need, an element of salvation. It's the only thing that can completely wash my brain. "

Closeup of Bruno Trentin by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

The second CGIL programmatic conference is held in Chianciano, from June 2 to 4, 1994. Trentin leaves the leadership of the confederation," the CGIL I know well - he affirms - and of which I leave the direction with a feeling of infinite gratitude […]; a union of women and men who always question themselves about their choices and also about their mistakes, which tries to learn from others to find all the energies that allow them to decide, to act, but also to continue to renew themselves, to demonstrate with the facts his ability to change and to open himself up to all the vital experiences and all the phenomena of democracy that are brewing now and that are always brewing in the world of workers. "

Closeup of Bruno Trentin by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

In his diaries he wrote:" Are rights immutable? No, some are the result of contingent achievements of certain sectors of society that are overcome by the real transformations of society, generally "forward", because they are replaced by a new generation of rights that adhere more to the conditions imposed by the social transformation. The law on working hours exalted by Marx is certainly outdated, after the conquest of the 40 hours. The unwritten right to a permanent contract is certainly overcome by the arrival of new contracts that still await the sanction of new rights, such as the right to training. But more generally, the new generations of rights are the forward projection and specification of ancient rights - of fundamental rights - which have not yet found full application. Like the right to education which today becomes the right to lifelong learning, with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Like the right to education which today becomes the right to lifelong learning , with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, such as the right to participate in the decisions of the company which is specified in the right to information and consultation of the company in cases of restructuring processes. The dominant question is the attitude of universal rights to build solidarity between different categories of citizens, or at least to the universality of the weaker categories, overcoming any corporative dimension, the rights that build solidarity between different people for their realization ".

Closeup of Bruno Trentin by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

"We need this - he argued - a project capable of justifying and legitimizing political alliances and of involving transversally, starting from work, all groups and castes of Italian society, a project capable of facing the most dramatic of social divisions in the our country and in the world, the one between those who own the tools of knowledge and those who are excluded from them (…) ».

Closeup of Bruno Trentin by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

"A renewal of the CGIL leadership groups and their working method - he affirmed a few years earlier - is possible and necessary: ​​I feel this problem as the main task facing me [...] But do not expect from me a renewal of men separate from a renewal of our organisation's policies, program, and strategy. And don't expect me to be a faction mediator. I am and will remain, I believe, until my death, one of the few or the many deluded who believe that the renewal of the leadership groups proceeds with the coherence of ideas, with the assumption of responsibilities, with the courage of the proposal and the project. And this, precisely because I am convinced that sooner or later, with the strength of ideas and proposals, even the culturally minority forces of today, if they demonstrate consistency and rigor, can become the majority tomorrow and truly be the future of our organization [...] C 'there is a need, especially today, for a trade union ethics that gives credibility and certainty to workers and that launches the message to young people who want to grapple with this test that working for the CGIL and CGIL is not a job like any other, but can being, it can become a reason for living ».

Closeup of Bruno Trentin by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

After his resignation as secretary general of the CGIL Trentin remains in the confederal bodies as head of the program office, but above all he returns to being a "socio-economic researcher", as he defined himself with a certain quirk.
These are years in which he will write a lot: The courage of utopia (Rizzoli, 1994), Work and freedom in a changing Italy (Donzelli, 1994), < i> North South. Labor, rights and trade unions in the world (Ediesse, 1996), The city of work. Left and the crisis of Fordism (Feltrinelli, 1997), Di Vittorio and the shadow of Stalin. Hungary, the PCI and the autonomy of the trade union (Ediesse, 1997).

Demonstration of the Ulivo party against the Berlusconi government, Rome, March 2002 (2002-03) by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

In June 1999, on the proposal of the Left Democrats, he was a candidate and elected to the European Parliament giving a primary contribution to the Charter European Union of Rights in Nice and the Lisbon Conference on the knowledge economy.
In the aftermath of an electoral campaign devoted mainly to the role of Europe in the international scenario of NATO's intervention in the Balkans against the ethnic cleansing of Serbia by Miloševic ́ in Kosovo, his commitment to the European Parliament is marked by the ability to connect the construction of political Europe to the economic and social dynamics of the countries of the single currency.
Bruno finds Europe without ever losing sight of the Italian reality of who remains lucid commentator and inevitable protagonist.

80th Birthday of Nella Marcellino, Rome, February 2003, Piero Ravagli, 2003-02, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
Trentin's notes on Di Vittorio, 2006-08, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
The wishes of Giorgio Napolitano, 2006-12, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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In 2001, after the Pesaro Congress, he was elected president of the Project Commission of the DS and received in 2002 from the University of Venice, an honorary degree with the lectio doctoralis "Work and knowledge".
The years from leaving the CGIL to his death will be years of great political and cultural development for Bruno, culminating in what is his most committed work from the theoretical point of view The city of work .
These are years in which he has been engaged, both in the Trade Union and in the Party, to preside over the bodies that should have provided a programmatic and project framework to the CGIL and, subsequently, to the political left.
However, these are also years in which he feels in a dramatic way the distance between his elaboration and the political practice of the trade union and the left.
But the less he understands and is understood by his fellow party members - and not only - and the more Bruno looks into the distance, certain that the fundamental problem was "the modification of relations between rulers and governed, in the State, in civil society, in business, in the nation, in the world".
The lesson and legacy of Giuseppe Di Vittorio, with whom Trentin impressed the idea that the union cannot be subordinate to the party, not only because it is an autonomous subject, but also because of its specific 'political' nature: the representation of members and workers in general.
This implies the responsibility of elaborating and proposing one's own project, which has at its center the all-round freedom of workers and citizens.
Freedom. A first, fundamental concept in the life of Bruno, a partisan at the age of 17.

Hello Bruno (2007-08) by Piero RavagliArchivio storico CGIL nazionale

Victim of a trivial bicycle fall, in August 2006 Bruno Trentin was hospitalized in serious condition at the Bolzano hospital. He will die exactly one year later, on 23 August 2007, struck down by pneumonia resistant to antibiotic therapy.

"I express my pain and that of all the CGIL for the death of Bruno Trentin - the then Secretary General Guglielmo Epifani will say - Bruno has represented throughout the post-war period a fundamental point of reference in the struggle for democracy, social equality and for the rights of the world of work. It can be said that there is no page in the history of the CGIL and of the Italian trade union movement in which he was not a protagonist. The plan for work, economic planning, the centrality of the South, the workers' struggles of the hot autumn, the season of the rights union, the fundamental agreements of '92 and '93 saw him as the undisputed protagonist [...] Bruno leaves a lesson of great moral rigor, coherence and autonomy defended with intransigence, attention to social values ​​and defense of the value of confederality. Not only the CGIL owes a lot to him but the whole of the workers' movement, the political forces of the country and the other trade union organizations to which he always had a great united attention starting from the experience of the metalworkers ".

Marcelle Padovani at Bruno Trentin's funerals, n/a, 2007, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
Pietro Ingrao at Bruno Trentin's funerals, n/a, 2007, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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Giorgio Napolitano and Marcelle Padovani, Piero Ravagli, 2007, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
Bruno Trentin funerals,, 2007, From the collection of: Archivio storico CGIL nazionale
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Credits: Story

All photos and documents reproduced are owned by the Historical Archive of the National CGIL.

Exceptions are the reproductions of the War Journal and the young Trentin's images taken from Bruno Trentin, 'Diary of War (September-November 1943)', Donzelli, Rome 2008 or kindly granted by the Trentin Family Documentation and Research Center, which we also thank for the video 'A family in exile. Trentin in the European antifascism.'

Thanks for the kind permission of the other videos to AAMOD,, FP CGIL Lombardia and thanks to Paolo Perna for the reproductions of the university documentation.

Edited by Ilaria Romeo, Head of National Archives CGIL
Technical support and English version by Marco Rendina

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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