Decadence and recovery: the postwar period
The Normale is not spared by the dramatic events of the war, although thanks to the courage of its directors, Russo and Tonelli, the Scuola will defend its printed heritage and its site, overcoming extremely harsh restrictions. In 1959, the Normale opens up its first women's section.
The Scuola Normale continued its activity despite the Second World War (1940-45), although with some regulatory limitations and many practical difficulties. It participated in the 1940 Esposizione Universale (Universal Exhibition) of Rome, for the exhibition of studies and high-level culture; however, dissent towards the Regime was becoming increasingly more evident among students and teaching staff.
With the deposition of Mussolini by the Grand Council on 25th July 1943, the Normale remained under German domination, since it belonged to the territory of the Republic of Salò.
After the tragic air raid on Pisa on August 31st 1943, the new Director, Luigi Russo, threatened with arrest for political reasons, had to leave the city and was replaced by the mathematician Leonida Tonelli, who put into safekeeping the library and the furnishings of the Palazzo della Carovana, transformed into a German barracks, and transferred the most important collections to the nearby Certosa di Calci.
On 2nd September 1944 the city was liberated, but Palazzo della Carovana was requisitioned by the Anglo-American army: students and teaching staff were relegated to the Puteano College. Luigi Russo, reinstated as Director, continued the work of safeguarding the material of the Scuola and of its library while the temporary site resumed its activities.
On September 25th, 1945, the Palazzo della Carovana once more gained possession of the Normale. In addition to the restoration of the building, it was decided, despite serious economic difficulties, to issue a call for seventy places for veteran or partisan students. A long awareness campaign, conducted with passion by Luigi Russo, enabled him to find financial resources, including contributions not coming from the state, and to create a heritage through donations and purchases, in accordance with a policy that would continue in the years to follow.
The postwar Normale conserved the regulations put in place by Gentile, although worthy of note is the institution, in 1959, of the «Female Section», with its site at the Palazzo del Timpano, at last enabling women to lead a collegiate life within the Scuola.