Remembering cycling champion who saved Jews from Nazis

Gino Bartali (1914-2000) competing in the 1938 Tour de France (CNA/Public domain)

An Italian cycling champion and devout Catholic who helped to save more than 800 Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II was remembered in Assisi yesterday on the 21st anniversary of his death. Source: CNA.

Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi led the singing of the Marian antiphon Regina Coeli in Gino Bartali’s personal chapel, now housed in the Memorial Museum, Assisi 1943-1944, to remember the man declared “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, in 2013.

“Bartali was a great witness, [whose example] helps us to become more Christian, more human…” Bishop Sorrentino said. Even in the difficulties of the present time, “Bartali gives us a hand, with his example, his courage, and his faith”.

During the war, Bartali used his position as a famous road cycling champion to support the Italian Resistance and help, with others, to save the lives of more than 800 Italian Jews.

Using cycling training as a cover, Bartali transported photographs and forged documents between Florence and Franciscan convents in the surrounding regions where Jews were hidden. He also carried messages and documents for the Italian Resistance.

Bartali also assisted the Assisi Network, an underground network of Catholic clergy who hid Jews in convents and monasteries during the war, by taking Jews from the hiding places to the Swiss Alps in a wagon with a secret compartment attached to his bicycle. If he was stopped, he said that the wagon was for training.

The cyclist, who twice won the Tour de France, also hid a Jewish family in his cellar, saving their lives, according to one survivor.


Catholic cycling champion who saved Jews during World War II honored in Assisi (By Hannah Brockhaus, CNA

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