Thelma de Finetti, edited by Giovanni Cislaghi and Mara DeBenedetti, with a preface by Francesca Pino Milan, Hoepli, 2009

Milan, Hoepli, 2009

The accidental protagonist of this book, supported by Intesa Sanpaolo’s Historical Archives, is the renowned architect Giuseppe de Finetti, who worked for Banca Commerciale Italiana under Raffaele Mattioli (he was responsible for refurbishing the rooms of the bank’s Headquarters in Piazza della Scala in 1935). The architect and great banker were bound by a relationship based on true friendship and professional esteem.

The book publishes for the first time the diary of de Finetti’s American-born wife Thelma Hauss, a first-hand witness to the dramatic years of the Second World War alongside her husband; Hauss manages to convey her experiences with exceptional freshness to the readers of today.

She recounts the everyday life of an upper-middle-class lady, a citizen of what is now an enemy country, into which she weaves the great events of these turbulent years. Her diary covers the bombing of Milan and the damage to their house at 6-8 Via del Gesù, their lives as refugees on Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore, her role in the anti-Fascist struggle with acts of everyday heroism, her help for relatives and comrades held in San Vittore prison, the role of women in the resistance, and the joy of the Liberation, when Thelma volunteers as an interpreter for the American troops. The book abounds with famous figures such as Enrico Mattei, Sergio Solmi, Ferruccio Parri and Hans Deichmann, a German anti-Nazi who had the firm support of the de Finettis and took part in the work of the ‘Patriots’.

It is enriched with historic photographs and Giovanni Cislaghi’s essay on the de Finetti family’s activities during the war years.