Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Righteous [Cyclist] Among The Nations
Every so often, the google search page features a graphic that is designed to draw your interest to someone or something of significance associated with the date. A click usually tells you it is the 400th anniversary of so-and-so's birthday, etc. Sometimes interesting... usually educational... almost never eye-opening.
That changed today.
Turns out that the Italian cyclist - Gino Bartali - whose 104th birthday it would have been today, was far more than just a champion cyclist.
Here's the relevant section of his Wikipedia page:
Rescues and Resistance role during World War II
Bartali used bicycle training as a cover for secret efforts to rescue Jews.
Bartali earned respect for his work in helping Jews who were being persecuted by the Nazis during the time of the Italian Social Republic. It emerged in December 2010 that Bartali had hidden a Jewish family in his cellar and, according to one of the survivors, saved their lives in doing so.
Bartali used his fame to carry messages and documents to the Italian Resistance. Bartali cycled from Florence through Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, sometimes traveling as far afield as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name. Neither the Fascist police nor the German troops risked discontent by arresting him.
Giorgio Nissim, a Jewish accountant from Pisa, was a member of DELASEM, founded by the Union of the Israelitic Communities to help Jewish Italians escape persecution. The network in Tuscany was discovered in autumn 1943 and all members except Nissim sent to concentration camps. He met Pope Pius XII and, with the help of the Archbishop of Genoa, the Franciscan Friars and others he reorganized DELASEM and helped 800 escape.
Nissim died in 2000. His sons found from his diaries that Bartali had used his fame to help. Nissim and the Oblati Friars of Lucca forged documents and needed photographs of those they were helping. Bartali used to leave Florence in the morning, pretending to train, ride to a convent in which the Jews were hiding, collect their photographs and ride back to Nissim.Bartali also used his position to learn about raids on safehouses.
Bartali was eventually taken to Villa Triste in Florence. The SD and the Italian RSS official Mario Carità questioned Bartali, threatening his life. Bartali simply answered, "I do what I feel [in my heart]".
Bartali continued working with the Assisi Network. In 1943, he led Jewish refugees towards the Swiss Alps himself. He cycled, pulling a wagon with a secret compartment, telling patrols it was just part of his training. Bartali told his son Andrea only that "One does these things and then that's that".
In June 2012, a book about Bartali's wartime activities, Road To Valor by Aili and Andres McConnon, was published.
Posted by David Bogner on July 18, 2018 | Permalink