This is an extract from the book written by Albert Sharon, “Walking to Valdieri – A memoir by Albert M. Sharon”, and was submitted by his daughter Patty Maimon. The book was published in 2003 by MS Finan, Inc, but is no longer in print.
We were commanded to assemble in the village square and the Marshal told us that the army and police were leaving and that we were free to go. Where would we go if the Germans were already in Nice? We turned to the Marshal and appealed to him to take us with him to Italy. “I can’t take you but if you wish, follow the army” his arms extended generously the rest unsaid. We would follow the Italians over the Alps.
Almost 800 men, women and children loaded with their sparse belongings trudged behind the army.
We trudged along several kilometers, crossing a small bridge that demarcated the border between France and Italy. Night descended and we were weary. Fearful that we would get lost in the pitch black mountain night, we made camp in an open space called ‘La Vacherie.’ Several fires were lit to give us warmth. The older people were emotionally and physically exhausted, they slumped down on their bundles. The youngsters found energy to play tag: for them it was an adventure.
We followed the Italian army up the serpentine road. The terrain was difficult. Children stumbled clinging to their parents who were carrying infants in their arms. The remarkable fortitude of the elderly and handicapped struggling to keep pace was amazing.
I can still see Mr. Reiter, his face set with determination, laboring up the mountain on his crutches. When we reached the ridge, we came up on an abandoned Italian army bunkers, we used it to escape the wind and give ourselves to catch our breath before the arduous descent.
Albert M. Sharon
Albert M. Sharon (1924-1990) was born into a Jewish household in Warsaw, Poland before moving to Brussels, Belgium as a child. In 1940, when Albert was 15 years old, the Germans invaded Belgium. Albert, along with his two sisters and one brother, fled with his parents to France in order to escape the fighting. The family moved between several different villages in the south of France, along the Pyrenees. In Toulouse, Albert and his brother aided in forging documents for the underground resistance, and were eventually imprisoned in Lyons, France. Once reuniting with his family, he travelled to Italy after the armistice was signed. Albert had his story transcribed by his wife, Lynn Sharon, months before his passing in 1990. (Copied from ushmm.org, which includes the original draft of the book.)
Patty Maimon, Albert’s daughter, lives in a small village in Israel. She is married, with four married sons and works as a medical secretary in protected housing (Protea Village). In 1971 she visited Saint Martin Vésubie with her father and her brother Avinoam. It was their father’s first time back since the war. As they walked down the street, she remembers him saying that nothing had changed since 1943.