b. Osijek, Yugoslavia (now Croatia), 1925
The Germans had started to round up Italian Jews and were looking for us, too. It was apparent to our protectors and my parents that we could not survive being hidden on this farm outside Bologna.
I had come illegally from my home town, Osijek (now Croatia) in February 1942 to Ljubljana, which was occupied by Italy. Later the Italian government had sent me to the interior, to this village near Bologna. My parents came to join me in mid-1943 from the Dalmatian coast, which was also occupied by Italy.
The Canova family were the ones who were hiding us on their farm. They gave us shelter and plenty of food. They were good-hearted Italians, Catholics, and anti-fascists. Through friends of the Canovas, we heard of a possibility to cross into Switzerland. Some had already fled successfully, we heard.
So in late 1943, we took the train to Milan. Fortunately one did not need an official laisser-passez (permit) for traveling within Italy. Nevertheless, we all had some false papers. My document was a “postal identification card”—apparently considered a valid ID in Italy at that time. My new name was Pietro Nenni, born in Sicily. Much later I found that this was the name of the Socialist Party leader of Italy.
While we traveled to Milan, Mr. Canova was arrested and interrogated about our whereabouts. Someone must have notified the police that he was hiding us. Mr. Canova never admitted to that or gave our whereabouts, and after a week he was released unharmed.
In Milan, some people harbored us in a large apartment complex in a sublet furnished apartment where other Jewish families were waiting their turn to cross into Switzerland. We were not completely safe there and were advised not to hang out in the apartment during the day. It was winter by that time and we had to either walk around the city, or travel on the tram or bus. The “safest” activity was to walk in the large cemetery—Catholic, of course. We had never seen such large sculptures and monuments in a cemetery.
For me the big city was an adventure. I studied the map of the city and surroundings, looking to see more than I could by walking the streets—after all, I was only eighteen! I neglected to realize that my life depended on not being caught by the Germans or neofascists.