Some people are amazing, and given my last post I thought it might be nice to recognize an amazingly courageous and righteous Italian.
Further details have emerged of the efforts the Italian cycling legend Gino Bartali made during the Second World War to help protect the country’s Jews from the Holocaust with the news that not only did he use training rides to act as a courier, but also hid a Jewish family in the cellar of his own home in Florence.
As reported on road.cc last month, Bartali, who won the Giro d’Italia three times and the Tour de France twice in a career disrupted by the war, is under consideration for the award of the title Righteous Among The Nations for his role in rescuing hundreds of Jews. However, Bartali, nicknamed ‘Il Pio’ – ‘The Pious’ - kept his clandestine activities secret during his lifetime.
Those efforts involved using long training rides, often between Florence and Assisi, to carry messages and documents hidden within the frame of his bike on behalf of an underground network that was pledged to supporting the country’s Jewish population, nearly 10,000 of whom were deported to Nazi death camps, most of those after Germany invaded the peninsula in the wake of Mussolini being overthrown in 1943.
Now, however, the Italian Jewish newspaper Pagine Ebraiche, its findings reported in La Gazzetta dello Sport, has revealed that Bartali’s efforts – and the consequent risk to himself and his family – went much deeper.
Read the whole story -- remarkable. Interestingly, Italians (in general) were better in regards treatment of Jews than the French, even though the former were part of the Axis and the latter an ally (supposedly). Looking at numbers, fewer Italian Jews (i.e., a smaller percentage) were deported to camps and murdered than French Jews, and for the most part Italian Jews were arrested by Germans, whereas the French police did much of the dirty work for the Germans. Even Hitler commented that the French were so "co-operative" and that he had so much trouble with Il Duce and Franco when it came to the Final Solution.