Milan area

An important stage in the Brichah operation, the city of Milan and the camps surrounding it became the centre for DPs in Northern Italy. ORT ran a number of important undertakings in the area. Large schools were opened in camps in Milan, Adriatico, Lecco-Brivio and Arona. Of special importance was an ORT school for builders in Milan, operating between 1946 and 1950, the first Jewish school of its kind in Europe. 

The camp in Milan, one of only a few camps located in large cities, housed about 1,000 Jewish DPs. The most famous ORT establishment in the area, the school for building, trained thirty pupils every fifteen weeks. The curriculum was the shortened version of the syllabus followed in the Italian Trade Schools. The majority of students of the ORT Scuola Muraria worked as fully paid craftsmen in the building trade and attended lectures in alternate weeks. They also undertook building work in camps surrounding Milan. One of their undertakings was the construction of the ORT kitchen which was established to deal with the difficult food situation in the camps.

In July 1947 ORT reported that ‘in establishing this school, the present great demand everywhere for craftsmen in the building industry was taken into account, and especially the fact, that with the enlargement of the Aliyah the demand for skilled workers in this field is bound to grow. Milan was chosen for the setting up of this school for the reason that Italian masons, tillers, cement and concrete workers have world-wide renown (…) The pupils are former book –keepers, shop-assistants and Yeshiva graduates; despite the very difficult conditions of their lives, they all keep good discipline in their work.’[1] After the closure of the school instructors from Milan moved to the ORT school for building construction in Jaffa in Israel.

Adriatico near Milan was a large camp which housed around 1,500 DPs. The camp boasted a very well developed social life with a great number of cultural undertakings as well as very strong sports teams. In the beginning of 1948 the ORT school in Adriatico trained 432 students and run courses in: building trades, dental mechanics, typewriter mechanics, dressmaking, cutting of men's garments, furriers training, children’s workshop (140 students) and instructors for children’s workshop.

Particularly popular among the courses offered in Adriatico was furriers’ training, which started in the summer of 1947, as  those trained as furriers had a particularly high chance of getting a visa, especially to Canada. This was also one of the most popular trade among the older DPs with fragile health, as it did not require too much physical strength.

In August 1847 a completely equipped school for dental mechanics was installed in the camp. The school trained 49 pupils. The training lasted 6 months and students were working in the camp hospital.

In November 1947 an ORT course for applied arts instructors  was inaugurated in Adriatico. Some of its graduates later taught in the children’s workshops which were ran in the camp from the beginning of 1948.  The Adriatico camp was closed at the end of April 1948. Only a fraction of students could conclude their training before liquidation, among them twenty-one typewriter repairmen. The rest of the students continued their training in camps in the south of Italy.

In Lecco-Brivio fifteen students trained in 1948 as assistants for chemical industry. The course lasted one year. During the first semester students learned general theoretical subjects. In the second they specialized in chemistry of cosmetics,  oil chemistry and general industrial chemistry. The laboratory was initially installed in  Lecco on the premises of an Italian trade school and later transferred to nearby Brivio where the students lived. The new lab was build by the students themselves with the help of local workmen. The school was closed in the latter part of 1948.

In Meina Arona training farm ORT ran from the second half of 1947 courses  preparing students for immigration to Palestine. They were held in metal fitting and locksmiths training as well as typewriter repair.

[1] World ORT Archive d05a014: Report on the Ort Activities August 1946-July 1947. Submitted to the meeting of the Central Board of the World ORT Union Paris, July 6th- 7th 1947  p.55