During the Second World War I served in the British Army, in Unit 524 of the Engineer Corps that was affiliated to the Allied Command in Italy. In 1945 I was stationed in the town Santa Colomba, near Sienna. Our unit established and maintained a kind of camp that served as transfer station for Jewish refugees on their way to the Land of Israel. I belonged to the group that established the camp, and my task was to take care of those refugees who had to stay for a while because of disease, need for rest or in order to clarify their status.
In June 1945 three Jewish orphans (two girls and a boy) arrived at the camp accompanied by a Christian young woman, who as far as I know was 18 years old. The girls, aged 13 and 14, and the boy, aged 9, were of the Toth family. Their companion was Ida Brunelli, who had been the maid at their home and became their caretaker after the death of their mother. (The father had left at the beginning of the war). Ida learned of the children's Jewish origin from the mother, before she died… Since then and until 1945, Ida Brunelli, although she herself was still a young girl, cared for the children, working hard and at personal risk to herself. When the engineer unit of the Jewish Brigade arrived in Padua, the Toth family's residence in 1945, Ida decided to fulfill her promise to the mother and to inform the proper authorities. From that time on they were taken in charge according to the regulations.
The Engineer unit transferred the orphans to the camp in Santa Colomba, where I met them, and had the opportunity to get to know them and to become acquainted with the role of Ida Brunelli-Lenti in their survival. My statement is based on my recollection and the deep impression I was left with by the deeds of this young girl who undertook the responsibility of caring for the orphans, taking risks by hiding Jewish children in a German occupied territory.
This left such a deep impression on me that I wrote about it in a letter to my wife on 1 July 1945. I quote from this letter: "Now we have with us two girls, a boy, and a young woman, who herself is still a child. The first three are Jewish. Their mother died two years ago during the German occupation of Italy. Previously they had been abandoned by their father, and all those years the Christian girl I mentioned took care of them. They had a very difficult time, and I really find it hard to believe that there still exist such people. The girl (Ida) was their maid before the mother's death, and now she is traveling with the children until they will reach the institution that I have mentioned."
I am glad that contact was maintained with the children, i.e. with Yehudit and Zvi who live in Israel. The contact is not continuous, but we are in touch.
I hope that Ida Brunelli-Lenti will receive the recognition she deserves.