Fatebenefratelli Hospital & Syndrome K.

Initially Italy was an ally of Germany and the other axis powers. during World War 2.

By 1943, Italy’s military position had become untenable. Axis forces in North Africa were finally defeated in the Tunisia Campaign in early 1943. Italy suffered major setbacks on the Eastern Front as well. The Allied invasion of Sicily brought the war to the nation’s very doorstep. The Italian home front was also in bad shape as the Allied bombings were taking their toll. Factories all over Italy were brought to a virtual standstill because raw materials, such as coal and oil, were lacking. Additionally, there was a chronic shortage of food, and what food was available was being sold at nearly confiscatory prices. Mussolini’s once-ubiquitous propaganda machine lost its grip on the people; a large number of Italians turned to Vatican Radio or Radio London for more accurate news coverage.

In July 1943, Allied troops landed in Sicily. Mussolini was overthrown and imprisoned by his former colleagues in the Fascist government. The Italian king replaced Mussolini as prime minister with Marshal Pietro Badoglio.

On September 8, 1943, Badoglio announced Italy’s unconditional surrender to the Allies. The Germans, who had grown suspicious of Italian intentions, quickly occupied northern and central Italy.

The 450-year-old Fatebenefratelli Hospital which is situated on a tiny island in the middle of Rome’s Tiber River, just across from the Jewish Ghetto. When Nazis raided the area on Oct. 16, 1943, a handful of Jews fled to the Catholic hospital, where they were quickly given case files reading “Syndrome K.”

The name Syndrome K came from Dr. Adriano Ossicini, an anti-Fascist physician working at the hospital who knew they needed a way for the staff to differentiate which people were actually patients and which were Jews in hiding. Inventing a fake disease cut out all the confusion, when a doctor came in with a “Syndrome K” patient, everyone working there knew which steps to take. “Syndrome K was put on patient papers to indicate that the sick person wasn’t sick at all, but Jewish.

The name Syndrome K not only alerted hospital staff that the “patients” were actually Jewish refugees in good health but also served as a jab to their oppressors, specifically, Albert Kesselring and Herbert Kappler. Kesselring was a Nazi defensive strategist and the commander responsible for the Italian occupation, while Kappler was an SS colonel.

Hidden away in a separate ward of the facility, those “infected” with Syndrome K were instructed to cough and act sick in front of Nazi soldiers as they investigated Fatebenefratelli. The patients were said to be highly contagious, deterring Nazi officials from coming anywhere near the quarters they were being kept in. Nazi officials became terrified of contracting the mysterious illness, steering clear at all costs.

Credited mainly to doctors Sacerdoti, Borromeo, and Ossicini, the operation was only made possible with the help of the entire staff, who played along with the plan, knowing exactly what to do when confronted with an incoming patient diagnosed with Syndrome K..

“The Nazis thought it was cancer or tuberculosis, and they fled like rabbits,” Vittorio Sacerdoti, a Jewish doctor working at the hospital under a false name, told the BBC in 2004. Another doctor orchestrating the life-saving lie was surgeon Giovani Borromeo.

Initially, the hospital was used as a hospice on the premises of the San Giovanni Calibita Church. Later, it was expanded into a modern hospital by Dr. Giovanni Borromeo, who joined in 1934, with the help of Father Maurizio Bialek.

Besides Fr. Maurizio and Borromeo, other doctors on staff assisted the Jewish patients and helped to move them to safer hideouts outside the hospital. In May 1944, the hospital was raided and five Jews from Poland were detained. However, the ruse saved dozens of lives.

Fr. Maurizio and Borromeo also installed an illegal radio transmitter in the hospital basement and made contact with General Roberto Lordi of the Italian Royal Air Force. After World War II, Borromeo was lauded by Government of Italy for his work and was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. He died in the hospital on 24 August 1961.

If only one person in the Hospital, be it patient or staff, had reported it to the Nazis, then without a shadow of a doubt, all of them would have been killed.

The combined efforts of Sacerdoti, Borromeo, Ossicini, and the entire hospital staff were only revealed 60 years later, and Borromeo specifically was recognized by the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in October 2004, not only for his work with Syndrome K, but for transferring Jewish patients to the hospital from the ghetto long before the occupation of the Nazis.

The Fatebenefratelli Hospital was recognized as a shelter for victims of Nazi persecution, and was named a “House of Life” in June, 2016. The ceremony was attended by Ossicini, 96-years-old at the time, along with some of the very people that his heroic efforts had helped save six decades before.

Fatebenefratelli survivors embrace during a reunion at the hospital on June 21, 2016

Sources

https://qz.com/724169/an-italian-doctor-explains-syndrome-k-the-fake-disease-he-invented-to-save-jews-from-the-nazis/

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/93650/syndrome-k-fake-disease-fooled-nazis-and-saved-lives

https://allthatsinteresting.com/syndrome-k

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The Hero Gino Bartali

Gino Bartali won the Giro d’Italia 3 times, in 1936,1937 and 1946. He also won de Tour de France twice, the first time in 1938 and again in 1948. This alone would make him a sporting hero. Especially his 2nd Giro d’Italia win, when his younger brother, Giulio, died in a racing accident on 14 June.1936 Gino came close to giving up cycling.

I could fill the blog will all his efforts as a cyclist, but he also a Hero for a completely different reason. In facts with these heroic acts he risked his life every time.

Gino Bartali was born on July 18, 1914, in Ponte a Ema, a small village south of Florence, Italy. His father, Torello, was a day laborer. His mother helped support the family by working in the fields and embroidering lace. Gino had two older sisters, Anita and Natalina, and a younger brother, Giulio, who shared his passion for cycling and racing. Gino began to work at a young age, laboring on a farm and helping his mother with embroidery work.

Bartali was a devout Catholic. The summer of 1943 was a turning point for Italy. Mussolini was overthrown in July. In September, the new government signed an armistice with the Allies. Germany invaded the northern regions of the country, including Tuscany. With the German occupation, conditions for the Jewish population grew much worse.

Also in September 1943, Italian Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa asked to meet Bartali. Dalla Costa had been secretly aiding thousands of Jews seeking refuge from other European countries. The fugitives needed falsified identity cards. Dalla Costa shared his plan with Bartali. Under the cover of his long training rides, Bartali could carry counterfeit documents and photos in the hollow frame of his bike. The plan was a nearly perfect one as Bartali knew those roads well and his need to train provided an ideal alibi.

Under the pretense of training, Bartali would set off from his hometown of Florence with life-saving, counterfeit documents hidden away in his handlebars.

These fake identity documents would be used to help Jews escape across the border, or at least help hide their Jewish ethnicity if they were ever stopped and questioned. He would often ride as far as Assisi (over 100 miles one way), where many Jews were being hidden in Franciscan convents.

By taking on this role, he put himself at huge risk. At one point he was arrested and questioned by the head of the Fascist secret police in Florence, where he lived.

The Goldenberg family had met Gino Bartali in 1941 in Fiesole. Shlomo Goldenberg-Paz, who was 9 years old at the time, told Yad Vashem that he remembered a meeting with Bartali and his relative Armando Sizzi, who was a close family friend. The two sat with Shlomo’s father and had “a discussion of adults”. He remembered the event well because the renowned cyclist had given him a bicycle and a photo with a dedication, which Goldbenberg-Paz has always kept. In 1941 the conversation with Bartali could not have dealt with illegal papers, but meeting his childhood hero became engraved in Goldenberg’s memory.

When later on, following the German occupation in 1943, the Goldenbergs went into hiding, Shlomo was first sent to a convent, but then joined his parents who were hiding in an apartment in Florence belonging to Bartali. Gino Bartali helped and supported them. Goldenberg’s cousin, Aurelio Klein also fled to Florence because he had heard that one could obtain forged papers. He stayed in the apartment with the Goldenberg family for a short while, and then fled to Switzerland with the help of forged documents. Klein told Yad Vashem that Shlomo Goldenberg’s mother had received forged papers from Bartali, and that she was the only one in the family who dared set foot outside the apartment and go shopping.

For many years after the war, Bartali did not speak about his role in saving hundreds of people, sharing just a few details with his son Andrea. It was only after his death in 2000, that Bartali’s rescue activities came to light. In 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Gino Bartali with the honor of Righteous Among the Nations.

On July 7, 2013 Yad Vashem recognized Gino Bartali as Righteous Among the Nations.

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. We can do with a few heroes like Gino nowadays.

sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/gino-bartali

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27333310

https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/righteous-sportsmen/bartali.asp

https://www.bicycling.com/news/a27483888/cycling-school-gino-bartali/

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The other side of WWII

World War 2 wasn’t only death and destruction, there were a few occasions where there was some reprieve. Sports remained very important during the war , to keep up the morale . The above picture is of Private Leonardo Rodriguez of Cartaro, Arizona, roping a calf during the American Red Cross rodeo and “Wild West” show staged in Foggia Stadium in Southern Italy, July 4, 5 and 6, 1944. The steers were furnished by Italian veterans of the last war. All participants in the events were soldiers of the Allied Fifth Army in Italy or Allied flyers based in Italy.

Some Canadian soldiers checking out their ice skates.

Dutch KNIL(Royal Dutch Indies Army) playing volleyball in Australia on a military base.

Until September 1944 most sports were still allowed in the Netherlands by the occupying Nazis.

A race between two 8s rowing teams on the river Amstel in Amsterdam, the race was held in May 1941.

Fanny Blankers-Koen was a Dutch track and field athlete, best known for winning four gold medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. She competed there as a 30-year-old mother of two, earning her the nickname “the flying housewife”, and was the most successful athlete at the event.

During the war, domestic competition in sports continued in German-occupied Holland, and Blankers-Koen set six new world records between 1942 and 1944. Here pictured in 1943 surrounded by admirers.

Allowing sports to continue was also a tool of propaganda of course.

source

https://beeldbankwo2.nl/nl/

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Brazil at War

Brazilian troops in Torre di Nerone, near Monte Castello

We all know about the allied troops which consisted out of the US, British, Soviet, Australian , Indian and South African forces and there were others of course.

However one country that is always over looked as a supplier for troops during WWII is Brazil.

Roosevelt knew it was important to get the whole continent of America(North and South) involved in the efforts to fight the axis powers. He held several conferences . Although President Getúlio Vargas of Brazil did feel sympathetic to the idea of a totalitarian state, he himself was a dictator, he did eventually agree to join forces with the US against the axis powers.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas aboard USS Humboldt.

The Germans themselves has done quite a bit pushing Brazil to war, by attacking Brazil’s coast with U-Boats and sinking several ships killing over 600 of its citizens, including women and children.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Vargas decided to honor his nation’s commitments to the United States and, in January 1942, broke diplomatic relations with Germany, Japan, and Italy. Although it would take up to January 28,1943 before Brazil would commit to sending troops.

The Brazilian Expeditionary Force, or in Portuguese: Força Expedicionária Brasileira, FEB consisted of about 25,900 men from both the army and air force fighting alongside the Allied forces in the Mediterranean Theatre of World War II. This air–land force consisted of a complete infantry division, a liaison flight, and a fighter squadron.

The Brazilian Navy was not directly connected to the FEB it had already been engaging in battle with the Germany navy in the Atlantic since mid As a result of the Axis attacks, Brazil suffered nearly 1,600 dead, including almost 600 civilians and more than 1,000 of Brazil’s 7,000 sailors involved in the conflict. Brazil had assigned three destroyer escorts to protection of merchant traffic in the Atlantic, escorting 2,981 merchant ships in 251 convoys carrying over 14 million tons of supplies to the fighting forces. No ship escorted by the Brazilian Navy was lost to enemy action during the war. Its own merchant marine suffered the loss of 31 ships sunk and 969 crew members killed.

Brazilian Destroyer Marcílio Dias

The Brazilian FEB troops took 20,573 Axis prisoners, including two generals, 892 officers, and 19,679 others. Brazil was also the only South American independent state that would send ground troops to Europe

Brazilian soldiers greet Italian civilians in the city of Massarosa, September 1944.

The Battle of Monte Castello would mark the the Brazilian Expeditionary Force’s first contribution into the land war in Europe. The battle took place between November 24,1944 to February 21 ,1945.

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Sources

https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Monte_Castello

https://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=109

Mount Vesuvius- The US Army Air Force forgotten enemy.

2020-03-18

The last time the Mount Vesuvius erupted in Italy was on March 18 1944. The eruptions and the lava flows lasted for several days.

The villages  of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Massa di Somma, and Ottaviano were destroyed, as was  part of San Giorgio a Cremano. 26 died and thousands had to flee their homes.

The US Army Air Force 340th Bombardment Group  was based at Pompeii Airfield at the time, just a few Kilometers away from the volcono. Initially it was thought they didn’t have to evacuate but their luck. quickly changed.

22

Sgt. Robert F. McRae. documented the events in his diary.

March 20, 1944

“As I sit in my tent … I can hear at four- to 10-second intervals the loud rumbling of the volcano on the third day of its present eruption. The noise is like that of bowling balls slapping into the pins on a giant bowling alley. To look above the mountain tonight, one would think that the world was on fire. The thickly clouded sky glows like that above a huge forest fire. Glowing brighter as new spouts of flame and lava are spewn from the crater. As the clouds pass from across the top of the mountain, the flame and lava can be seen shooting high into the sky to spill over the sides and run in red streams down the slopes. … Today it is estimated that a path of molten lava 1 mile long, half a mile wide, and 8 feet deep is rolling down the mountain. Towns on the slopes are preparing to evacuate. Our location is, apparently, safe. At any rate no one here, civilian or Army authorities, seems too much worried. Lava has not started to flow down this side of the mountain as yet but is flowing on the other side toward Naples.”

March 21, 1944

“At about 5:30 p.m. small streams of lava began running down our side of the mountain. The first on this side. Soon many swift, fiery streams were flowing in all directions. The rumbling continues — more prolonged now. This evening it would seem that the whole top of the mountain is burning. Fiery patches here and there resemble a log which is just burning out. Heavy explosions occur followed by prolonged rumbling while sparks and molten lava are thrown high into the air to fall like rain on all sides of the cone.”

The next entry was on March 29th.

“almost complete devastation” with “tents torn to ribbons” and “88 B-25 Mitchells — $25 million worth of aircraft … a total loss.”

Estimates ranged from 78 to 88 aircraft destroyed.

us aaf

 

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Source

https://www.earthmagazine.org/article/benchmarks-march-17-1944-most-recent-eruption-mount-vesuvius

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robinandrews/2017/02/16/how-vesuvius-upstaged-the-nazi-air-force-during-the-second-world-war/#4f78ecc6597f

Filippo Illuminato-13 year old resistance Hero.

Fillipo

I don’t want to make this a current political blog, and I won’t.,but I need to get this off my chest. Much too often do I hear that the current generations, often referred to as Generation Y(Millennials) and Generation Z(iGen) have it so much harder then any generation before them. It really gets my blood boiling because it is an insult to those who gave their lives so that they now can complain about everything.

When I read about Filippo Illuminato and how he died I noticed he was only 13. Initially I thought that the dates were wrong, because how could a young boy who had just entered his teenage tears be such a Hero. But the dates were correct.

He was born 21 August 1930 in Naples,Italy. After finishing primary school, he took a job as an apprentice mechanic in a vehicle repair shop.

On 3 September 1943, the Allies and Italy signed the Armistice of Cassibile. Nazi Germany reacted by attacking Italy, their former Axis ally.

On 13 September, the Nazi military governor of Naples ordered disarmament, and a curfew, he warned there would be  savage retaliations for any attack on his men. On 26 September, In response to this, , an unarmed crowd poured into the roads against the Nazi roundups, freeing young people from deportation. The rioters were joined by some former Italian soldiers who had kept themselves hidden so far.The insurrection lasetd for 4 days, referred to as “the 4 days of Naples”

When the Allies entered Naples on 1 October, the Nazis had gone.

allies

However during the Four Days of Naples  the young 13 year old Filippo Illuminato had bravely opposed a German armored car. The young boy received a posthumous Gold Medal of Military Valour for his act of Heroism.

Below is the English translation of the citation on the medal:

A thirteen-year-old fighter in the insurrection of Naples against the German invasion, alone and with sublime boldness, while the men sought shelter, he attacked an armoured car that was about to enter Via Roma from Piazza Trieste and Trento. After throwing one hand grenade, he advanced under enemy fire, and threw a second grenade before falling riddled with bullets. Such supreme, noble recklessness elevates this thirteen-year-old boy to a place among the heroes of the Fatherland, and he is to be acknowledged with pride in the memory of Naples and of all Italy. – Naples, Piazza Trieste e Trento , 28 September 1943.

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Mona Lisa smiles, but was she happy?

Mona Lisa

One of the most famous paintings, if not the most famous painting is the Mona Lisa,painted by Leonardo da Vinci.

In 1503 or 1504 Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint Lisa del Giocondo (nee Gherardini), the painting became known as the Mona Lisa. Aged 15, real-life Lisa Gherardini married Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. a modestly successful cloth and silk merchant, becoming his third wife. Lisa’s dowry( the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband or his family in marriage)was 170 florins and the San Silvestro farm near her family’s country home.

Francesco del Giocondo,regularly bought girls from North Africa and converted them to Christianity with many working as maids at the del Giocondo household. However there would have been too many to work in the household, it is therefor very likely he sold some of the girls as slaves.

husband

Lisa’s sister Camilla,  who was a nun, caused a scandal when she and some other nuns were accused of allowing four men to touch them indecently.

I wonder how much reasons did Lisa have to smile.

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Sources

Martin Kemp and Giuseppe Pallanti: Mona Lisa: The People and The Painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The SS ransom demand of September 26-1943.

Kappler

The killing of innocent lives is despicable enough but trying to make a profit out of it in the most deceitful way is beyond evil. Giving people hope that someway they will survive, where there really was no intention of sparing their lives,sickens me to the core.

Shortly after  the armistice between Italy and the Allied forces on 8 September 1943, the German military occupied Rome and Herbert Kappler was appointed as Chief of the Security Police and Security Service  for all SS and Order Police units deployed in Rome.

rOME

On September 26 Major Herbert Kappler, delivered a 36-hour ultimatum to the city’s Jewish community, requiring a ransom payment of fifty kilograms of gold, as well as 100 million Italian lire, to the SS headquarters in Rome , to avoid the mass arrest and deportation of Rome’s Jews to concentration camps.

The Jewish community ,via Israel Zolli, the Chief Rabbi of Rome told the Vatican about the ransom and asked if they could help because the Jews did not have the 50 kg of  gold to fulfill the ransom demand. The Vatican’s replied on September . 27,  that the Pope,Pius XII, was willing to lend,interest free, the 110 pounds of gold to the Jewish community.

Pope

But, by September. 28,  the Jewish community received donations of Jews and non-Jews exceeding 110 pounds. The loan of the Vatican was therefor no longer required.

However, on October 16, 1943 the Nazis, in conjunction with the Italians, conducted a roundup of the Jews in Rome and 2 days later on October 18,1,035 Jews were deported to Auschwitz.

raid

Rabbi Israel Zolli survived and converted together with his 2nd wife and daughter ,to Catholicism in 1945.

In 1948, Kappler was tried by an Italian military tribunal and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Gaeta military prison. In 1977 he escaped prison, because he had been terminally ill, he only weighed 47 KG, His wife was able to carry him ot in a suitcase.6 months after his escape he died.

 

 

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16 bodies in Lake Maggiore

Meina

The lakes of Italy are known for its beauty. Although I have been to Italy several times it was usually the Lake Garda area I would visit, every time I was awestruck by its beautiful surroundings. I did see Lake Maggiore once in passing and it also looked majestic.

However this majestic beautiful place was also a place of horror for at least 16 Jewish Greeks during WWII.

Even though Italy did have a brutal and fascist regime and there were persecutions of Jews, the majority of the Jewish population did have a relatively ‘normal’ life compared to Jews elsewhere in Europe.

However this changed after the dismissal and arrest of Mussolini. Hitler sent an elite squad to free his ally from captivity after Italy had signed an armistice with allied forces in September 3,1943 and officially announced 5 days later on the 8th of September.

Hitler moved fast to establish a new Fascist Italian state in the North of Italy. The Repubblica Sociale Italiana.The Italian Social Republic was proclaimed on 23 September, with Mussolini as both head of state and prime minister.But the new republic really was a puppet state run by Nazi Germany.

Duce

Meina was a small village at  the southern area of Lake Maggiore. The village had a Hotel with the same name Hotel Meina. The owners were the Behars, a family of Turkish Jews.

The hotel had about 30 guest rooms,  a billiard room, a reading room and a room where the guests could play cards. The garden faced Lago Maggiore. In September 1943, it had a number of Jewish guests, mostly from Greece, who had escaped the Nazi occupation in Greece.

Since Italy had signed an armistice there was this false believe the war was over, nothing could be further from the truth.

On Wednesday morning, Sept. 15, the Meina hotel was surrounded by the SS. Twenty Jews were identified, including: Alberto and Eugenia Behar, the owners of the hotel, with their children; the Fernandez Diaz family; the Mosseris; Raoul Torres and his wife, Valerie Nahoum; Daniele Modiano; Vittorio Haim Pompas; Vitale Cori, the hotel’s bartender; and Lotte Fröhlich-Mazzucchelli.

The SS men were from the SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. They kept the Jews as prisoner in the Hotel, where the Non Jewish guests were free to do what they wanted to do.

SS

On the night of 22/23 September the 16 Jewish guests were taken out of the Hotel and driven a few miles outside of the village where they were shot.

The 16 bodies were dumped in Lake Maggiore.

Lago

In the  following days, the bodies floated to the surface. The SS recovered the corpses and burned them.

The fate of the 16 souls was initially forgotten but in 1968 those responsible for the Meina massacre were tried in Germany Mario Mazzucchelli, the non Jewish husband of  Lotte Fröhlich-Mazzucchelli, testified as a witness. Three officers were sentenced to life but in 1970, the Supreme Court declared the statute of limitations had expired and released them.

In Meina commemorative ‘stumbling blocks’ were put down to remember the victims of the Meina Hotel  massacre.One separate block for each victim and one general block for all 16.

stone

In 2007 director Carlo Lizzani shot a movie of the awful event. Hotel Meina.

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Ernest Erbstein-Holocaust survivor who died a tragic death.

Ern

Now that the World Cup Football is well on its way in Russia, it is a good opportunity at one of the sport’s legends.

Ernest Erbstein, aka Ernest Egri-Erbstein was a Jewish-Hungarian football player and  He was involved in  football as a player and coach in several countries,  but he was most noted for his association with Italian football.

coach

Erbstein moved to Torino in 1938 to  play for the team , but because of World War II and the fact that he was Jewish he returned to Hungary.

He, his wife Jolan and their two daughters all survived the holocaust.

In 1944 he was imprisoned  in a slave labour camp near Budapest along together with another great Jewish footballer Béla Guttmann,who also survived the Holocaust . They found out  that their labour brigade  of Jewish men was about to be deported to a most likely death.

Rather than awaiting the same  fate of their  600,000  fellow Hungarian  Jews, they escaped by jumping from a window.

After the war Erbstein rejoined Torino,  but this time as  a trainer; it would become  one of the most noted spells in Italian football as the Torino side became known as Grande Torino.

Garnde Torino

Erbstein  along with Englishman Leslie Lievesley were co-managers during the 1948–49 season.  On 4 May 1949 while on the way back from Lisbon, the plane carrying Erbstein and the majority of the Torino team and staff crashed  into the retaining wall at the back of the Basilica of Superga, which stands on a hill on the outskirts of Turin.

crash

Erbstein’s luggage was undamaged. He had borrowed the suitcase from his daughter and had promised to return it to her when he came back from Lisbon.

luggage

 

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Sources

CNN

Haaretz