Two forgotten Heroes

The article is about 2 men with no connection whatsoever, well nearly. The only connection is that they both saved Jews during WWII in different ways but both defied the Nazi regime at risk of losing their own lives.

Gino Bartali

Gino-Bartali

Gino Bartali (18 July 1914 – 5 May 2000), nicknamed Gino the Pious and , was a champion road cyclist. He was the most renowned Italian cyclist before the Second World War, having won the Giro d’Italia twice (1936, 1937) and the Tour de France in 1938. After the war he added two other victories in both events: the Giro d’Italia in 1946 and the Tour de France in 1948. His second and last Tour de France victory in 1948 gave him the largest gap between victories in the race.

In September 2013, 13 years after his death, Bartali was recognised as a “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem for his efforts to aid Jews during World War II.

He had everything to lose. His story is one of the most dramatic examples during World War Two of an Italian willing to risk his own life to save the lives of strangers

Bartali, a villager from a poor Tuscan family, was reaching the peak of his career as the war approached.He won his first Giro d’Italia in 1936, retaining the title in 1937. Then – to Italy’s delight – he won the 1938 Tour de France. It was a moment the country’s fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, had been looking forward to eagerly.

il-duce

Mussolini believed that if an Italian rider triumphed in the Tour it would show that Italians too belonged to the master race.

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, by doing so saved their lives.Bartali hid his Jewish friend Giacomo Goldenberg, and Goldenberg’s family.”He hid us in spite of knowing that the Germans were killing everybody who was hiding Jews,” Goldenberg’s son said in an interview with Oren Jacoby,who made a documentary om Bartali.

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, rode to a convent in which the Jews were hiding, collected their photographs and rode back to Nissim. Bartali used his position to learn about raids on safehouses.

Bartali was eventually taken to Villa Triste in Florence. The SD and the Italian RSS office, Mario Carità questioned Bartali, threatening his life Bartali simply answered “I do what I feel “.

Bartali continued with the Assisi Underground. 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 2013 Yad Vashem recognized Gino Bartali the title of Righteous Among the Nations.He is a central figure in the 2014 documentary My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes.

My_Italian_Secret_cover

 

 

Sgt.Roddie Edmonds

CVPLK5GUwAAuVCF

Edmonds was captured by Nazi forces on 19 December 1944. As the senior noncommissioned officer (Master Sergeant), Edmonds was responsible for the camp’s 1,275 American POWs.

The camp commandant ordered Edmonds to tell only the Jewish-American soldiers to present themselves at the next morning’s assembly so they could be separated from the other prisoners. Instead, Edmonds ordered all 1,275 to assemble outside their barracks. The German commandant rushed up to Edmonds in a fury, placed his pistol against Edmonds’ head and demanded that he identify the Jewish soldiers under his command. Instead, Edmonds responded “We are all Jews here,”and threatened to have the commandant investigated and prosecuted for war crimes after the conflict ended, should any of Edmonds’ men be harmed.

He would not waver, even with a pistol to his head, and his captors eventually backed down. Edmonds’ actions are credited with saving up to 200 Jewish-American soldiers from nearly certain death.

Edmonds was captured with thousands of others in the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944 and survived 100 days of captivity, returned home after the war, but never told his family of his actions.

His wife gave his son, Baptist Rev. Chris Edmonds a couple of the diaries his father had kept while in the POW camp. Rev. Edmonds began researching his story, locating several of the Jewish soldiers his father saved, who provided witness statements to Yad Vashem.

160126-master-sgt-roddie-edmonds-wwii-pow-jsw-1008a_19aa422b30b522a16368365f35502c10.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

Seventy years later, the Knoxville, Tennessee, native was being posthumously recognized with Israel’s highest honour for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II. He’s the first American serviceman to earn the honor.

His son vaguely knew about his father’s past from the diaries Edmonds kept in captivity that included the names and addresses of his men and some of his daily thoughts.

But it was only while scouring the Internet a few years ago that he began to unravel the true drama that had unfolded — oddly enough, when he read a newspaper article about Richard Nixon’s post-presidency search for a New York home. As it happened, Nixon purchased his exclusive upper East Side town house from Lester Tanner, a prominent New York lawyer who mentioned in passing how Edmonds had saved him and dozens of other Jews during the war.

That sparked a search for Tanner, who along with another Jewish POW, Paul Stern, told the younger Edmonds what they witnessed on 27 January, 1945, at the Stalag IXA POW camp near Ziegenhain, Germany.

The Wehrmacht had a strict anti-Jew policy and segregated Jewish POWs from non-Jews. On the eastern front, captured Jewish soldiers in the Russian army had been sent to extermination camps.

At the time of Edmonds’ capture, the most infamous Nazi death camps were no longer fully operational, so Jewish American POWs were instead sent to slave labour camps where their chances of survival were low. US soldiers had been warned that Jewish fighters among them would be in danger if captured and were told to destroy dog tags or any other evidence identifying them as Jewish.

So when the German camp commander, speaking in English, ordered the Jews to identify themselves, Edmonds knew what was at stake.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s