The 25th of April is remembered in Italy and Portugal as the Liberation Day from German Nazi occupation.
We want to celebrate the event mentioning a sports story which for years has been hidden by the protagonist himself, Gino Bartali, one of the most important names in the history of cycling, who saved between 1943 and 1944 over 800 people carrying false documents in the tube of his bicycle.
Ginettaccio, as he was affectionately called by his supporters, was probably the proudest rival of Fausto Coppi and his career was interrupted by the second world war, just as both were expressing themselves in the best years of their condition. But while the unlucky Coppi disappeared prematurely killed by malaria, the cycling career of Gino Bartali was one of the longest and most successful in this sport.
The “timeless”, which nickname had been earned on the ground, ran from 1935 until 1954, toting always the saddle with the same enthusiasm. Just mentioning a few of his successes, he managed to award 2 winnings with the French Tour de France and 3 cups in the Italian Giro d’Italia.
But, despite the fact his career was going great, he decided to put his rides at the service of superior ideals, fighting against fascism by using the possibilities offered in his own trainings: he started pedaling from his Ponte a Ema to Assisi bringing documents, photographs and letters of the clandestine organization of resistance to the Holocaust by inserting them in the frame of his bicycle.
His actions became a point of reference for the safety net set up by the Archbishop of Florence Elia Angelo Dalla Costa and by Rabbi Nathan Cassuto, who were trying to collect and distribuite fake identity cards in order to save men, women and children, allowing them to leave the country to escape, in this way, the raids.
Considering his notoriety, Bartali had never been stopped during his rides between the villages of Tuscany as he could use in advance of any suspicious the alibi of training, and his prolonged excursions in some cases until in Assisi they were even authorized by the commander of the department in which Bartali had been conscripted after the establishment of the Italian Social Republic, the motorcyclist battalion of the Republican National Guard.
In these hard ages Bartali’s gesture was certainly not the only one: there were thousands of courageous, most of them remained anonymous, who helped to protect the potential victims of the repression by German occupiers from a horrible end. However, the case of Bartali is emblematic because of the celebrity of the character and the risk taken: if he had been discovered, he would have gone to the shooting. Furthermore, he was constantly pressured by the advance of the fascist government to wear the black shirt in to carry on the fascist propaganda.
His story has been overshaded for years according to his will: “The good must be done, not said. And some medals hang up on the soul, not in the jacket“, as he was used to say.
According to the researches, there would be at least 800 people to whom the Tuscan champion saved his life: for a long time he did not tell anything about the Jews people who saved from death during the war. After years, he opened himself up to his son Andrea telling the whole story with the recommendation not to tell anything, except in due course. Once the facts have been emerged, it inspired the tale “La bicicletta di Bartali” written by Simone Dini Gandini, in which every details is accurately told.
In 2006, the Gold Medal for Civil Value was conferred to the memory of Gino Bartali, by the President of the Republic Carlo Azelio Ciampi, and in 2013 he was assigned by the State of Israel the very important honor of Righteous among the Nation. Few days ago the Yad Vashem, Israel’s National Holocaust Remembrance Agency, said that it has been decided to confer the honorary citizenship of Israel to Gino Bartali’s memory, in order to commemorate his brave deeds.
Even more than a great cycling champion, Gino Bartali was therefore a hero, a man and above all a man who did not like to let his gestures known.
#SportValues #GetVal #Bravery