Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust
A rabbi escapes to Switzerland in 1944
Rabbi Mayer Relles hid in a Catholic home for the disabled in Milan, Italy, until he escaped across the border
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"Yeah, I want to tell you, that before we left that institution, Mother Clara, she gave us cheese and meat and salami and chunks of meat that were old, years and years. They know how to make it, you know, that it doesn't spoil. The more it stays, the better it tastes. They gave us — I had a valise with food.
I had one lira. All of it. Why? Because when I entered, I don't know all these things, I gave the money I had and I gave my things away, you know. I delivered there my bread you know, my bread coupons, too. But I had to eat.
And we began to walk about twelve o'clock, midnight. It was the most wonderful walk on the mountains. We had to cross the mountains. It was the most wonderful walk.
We had four smugglers. They carried — the smugglers carried our valises, and we walked.
There was a path, we walked, we stopped in a place, you know where the shepherds sleep, and we had there water and we ate and so on.
At two o'clock in the morning — it took us two hours. I'm telling you, it was the most — you know — and we have the moonlight, yes, during our walk, we saw all of a sudden it became day, you know and we heard planes.
It was that night they bombed Milan.
All the time I was there, they never touched Milan. I don't say it's my merit, [laugh] but in fact, next day we arrived in Switzerland [and] we read in the paper that they bombed Milan."
Relles Interview, Tape 10, Side 2
Transcript page 181 (PDF, 813 KB)