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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Forgotten heroes- Risking their lives to oppose an evil regime.

I would be lying if I would say that all Dutch opposed the Nazi occupiers, because there were many who were happy enough, to follow the rules of the new lords of the land.

However there were also many who opposed the evil regime and especially opposed the way they treated their Jewish friends and neighbours.

Organisations like ‘Het Derde Front” ,the third front- a Marxist resistance group, called to boycott all businesses who refused Jews. There was a national strike on February 25 and 26,1941, organized by several groups like the CPN)Communist Party Netherlands) and also the third front.

Both actions were announced by using posters and flyers. Anyone who would have been caught carrying these posters, would face severe punishments including the death penalty.

A few dozen organizers and participants of the strike were arrested and executed. Two of them died in Dachau. This did instill fear in the population of the Netherlands, because prior to that the Nazis hadn’t been too harsh against the Dutch, with the exception of the Jewish citizens of course.

However there were several acts of bravery throughout the war.

Approximately 75% of all Jews in the Netherlands were murdered during the Holocaust, an estimated 105,000. This is the highest number per capita of all occupied countries. In retrospect it is easy to judge those who didn’t act, but unless you have been in a situation like that yourself, you can’t

It is true that many collaborated with the Nazis and some of them made a living out of it, additionally the Dutch had a very sophisticated and effective civil service, combined with very accurate and up to date records of all citizens. This of course did help the Nazis greatly.

Despite all of that there were thousands who helped their Jewish fellow citizens, in many ways, again facing severe punishments and even the death penalty if they were caught.

Yad Vashem puts the number of the Dutch ‘Righteous among the Nations’ on 5,851. This is also the highest number per capita of all righteous.

The Righteous Among the Nations, honored by Yad Vashem, are non-Jews who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust. Rescue took many forms and the Righteous came from different nations, religions and walks of life. What they had in common was that they protected their Jewish neighbors at a time when hostility and indifference prevailed.

One of these brave people was Pieter Bosboom.

Pieter (Piet) Bosboom was responsible for rescuing around 1,000 people, Jews as well as Allied airmen and other fugitives. He was born in Zaandam, North Holland, to a religious Calvinist mother and socialist father, from both of whom he got his deeply humanistic character. As the Nazis tightened their grip on power in Germany, Piet became involved in bringing illegal refugees over the border to Holland. He quickly learned “laundering” techniques to provide escapees with new identities and visas to third countries.

In May 1940, he began organizing Resistance cells in and around Zaandam and prepared the local community to host Jewish fugitives. In August 1943, the director of the Bergstichting, a home for wayward children, was warned of an impending raid.

The institution, which was run by a non-Jewish couple, the Reitsemas, was home to many Jewish children and counselors. The director turned to the Resistance group run by Piet and Marietje Overduin and hiding places were found for the Jews. Among those in danger was Ruth Donath (later Neuberger), an immigrant from Vienna whose entire family had been deported. She was determined to leave her fate to chance and refused to go into hiding. Piet did his utmost to persuade her to change her mind, although she pointed out that nobody would have her because of her Jewish looks. Ruth finally gave in and was found a hiding place in Friesland and survived the war.

On November 3, 1970, Yad Vashem recognized Pieter Bosboom as Righteous Among the Nations.

It would be easy to judge those who did nothing, but I prefer to honor those who did act, and let them be my example. Because although the war and the Holocaust maybe over, the ideology that was at the foundation of this is still around, For decades it has been simmering in the background but in recent times it has be coming more and more to show itself.

Love still lingers on but so does hate and if we give in to that hate, history will repeat itself.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/653/berg-stichting

https://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/about-the-righteous.html

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Sgt.Roddie Edmonds- We are all Jews here.

Roddie Edmonds and many of his fellow US Army mates were captured by Nazi forces on 19 December 1944, during the battle of the Bulge . Some of them were sent to Stalag IX B Edmonds was the senior noncommissioned officer (Master Sergeant), and was therefore responsible for the camp’s 1,275 American POWs.

The men of the 422nd Regiment were forced to march about 50 kilometers to Gerolstein, Germany , there they were loaded into cattle/box cars, 60 to 70 men per car, with almost no food or water. The following 7 days and nights they traveling to Stalag IXB in Bad Orb. Where they arrived on Christmas day 1945,25December. After about a month in Bad Orb, the American POWs were divided into three groups – officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and enlisted men. The NCOs were taken to Stalag IXA in Ziegenhain. There were 1,000 men in this group.

Om January 25,1945-2 days before Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops- they arrived in Stalag IX A, Ziegenheim

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.

Luckily the camp commandant had still a bit of common sense left and took the the threat serious. Many other would not have done that and would have executed all men.

Because of this brave stand against the Nazi tyranny, Sgt Edmonds saved 200 Jewish men. But it was more then 200 he saved. These men had children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren. So this number can be multiplied several times.

Roddie Edmonds a hero who rightly awarded the recognition as a Righteous among the people by Yad Vashem.

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Sources