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Yad Vashem Chairman to confer Italian Righteous Among the Nations Gino Bartali with Commemorative Citizenship Tomorrow

Giro d'Italia Big Start Honorary President Sylvan Adams, together with cyclists from the Giro d'Italia, will participate in a Memorial Ride through Yad Vashem and stop in front of the Memorial to the Deportees

29 April 2018

On 2 May 2018 at 14:30, as part of the events leading up to the Giro d' Italia Big Start, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, will host participants of the Israel Cycling Academy and leadership of the Giro d' Italia at an event posthumously bestowing Commemorative Citizenship of the State of Israel on the late Righteous Among the Nations Gino Bartali. Cyclists from the Giro d'Italia will participate in a Memorial Ride through Yad Vashem's campus, concluding in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations. Following the ride, a short ceremony will be held conferring Commemorative Israeli Citizenship on the late Gino Bartali.

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev will present the certificate of Commemorative Citizenship to Gioia Bartali granddaughter of Gino Bartali, in the presence of Italian Ambassador to Israel H.E. Mr. Gianluigi Benedetti and Honorary President of Giro d'Italia Big Start Sylvan Adams. Director of the Righteous Among the Nations Department Irena Steinfeldt will MC the event.

The ceremony is open to the media. Media interested in covering the event must RSVP to simmy.allen@yadvashem.org.il and arrive for the start of the Memorial Ride at the entrance of Yad Vashem with a valid GPO card by 14:15. A photo-op by Yad Vashem's Cattle Car - Memorial to the Deportees will be pooled.

International Media Pool:

Stills: No Pool             TV: Reuters TV

The event will be English and Italian with simultaneous translation.

Rescue Story:

Gino Bartali, born in Florence in 1914, was a champion road cyclist who won the Italian Giro d'Italia multistage race three times (in 1936, 1937 and 1946) and the Tour de France twice (in 1938 and 1948). Owing to his remarkable accomplishments in sports, he became a popular and widely admired national hero. 

Bartali was a devout Catholic. According to his son, Andrea Bartali, Archbishop Elia Angelo Dalla Costa (recognized as Righteous Among the Nations in 2012) had performed the marriage ceremony of his parents and maintained a close relationship with his father. Following the German occupation of Italy in September 1943, Bartali, who was a courier for the resistance, came to play a role in the rescue of Jews within the framework of the network initiated by Rabbi Nathan Cassuto who was later joined by Dalla Costa. Bartali was known to cover large distances with his bicycle for training purposes, and transferred forged documents from one place to another. His activity spanned a wide area. He also distributed forged documents produced by the Assisi network, another rescue operation initiated by clergy in that town. 

Giulia Baquis told Yad Vashem that during the German occupation, she was in hiding with her family at the home of two sisters in Lido di Camaiore in Tuscany. One day, a cyclist arrived at the door with a package and enquired about her family. The older sister was away, and the other feared that the stranger was a collaborator, and she therefore denied any knowledge of the Jewish family. The courier left without delivering the package. After liberation, the resistance member who had arranged the hiding place for them told Baquis’ parents that the messenger had been Gino Bartali. Another witness, Renzo Ventura, heard his mother, Marcella Frankenthal-Ventura, say that she, her parents and her sister had received false papers that were brought to them by Bartali on behalf of the Dalla Costa network. 

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

When, 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 that belonged to Bartali. The apartment was also occupied by Sizzi, but Goldenberg later learned from his parents that throughout that time they spent in the apartment, Bartali helped and supported them. Goldenberg’s cousin, Auerlio Klein, also fled to Florence, because he had heard that one could obtain forged papers there. He stayed in the apartment with the Goldenberg family for a short while, and then escaped 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 consequently she was the only one in the family who dared set foot outside the apartment to go shopping. 

After the war, Bartali never spoke of his underground work during the German occupation. Hence, many of his courageous endeavors remain unknown. Sara Corcos, who worked for the CDEC (Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea, Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center) in Milan, told her niece, Shoshana Evron, daughter of Rabbi Nathan Cassuto, that she had met Gino Bartali after the war. He emphatically refused to be interviewed, saying that he had been motivated by his conscience and therefore did not want to have his activity documented. Only when Corcos told him that she was related to the family of Rabbi Cassuto did a deeply moved Bartali agree to speak, on condition that she would not record him. In the conversation that followed, Bartali told Corcos about the forged documents and about his role in distributing them. 

Yad Vashem posthumously recognized the former Giro d'Italia cyclist Gino Bartali as Righteous Among the Nations in 2013 for his courageous actions in rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. Bartali's name is engraved on the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations on the Mount of Remembrance.

To date, Yad Vashem has recognized some 27,000 individuals from over 50 countries as Righteous Among the Nations.