The cyclist who saved Jews in wartime Italy
Bartali, a villager from a poor Tuscan family, was reaching the peak of his career as the war approached. He won his first Giro d'Italia in 1936, retaining the title in 1937. Then - to Italy's delight - he won the 1938 Tour de France. It was a moment the country's fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, had been looking forward to eagerly. Bartali was invited to dedicate his win to Mussolini, but refused. It was a grave insult to il duce and a big risk to take. Bartali, a devout Catholic, was asked by the Cardinal of Florence, Archbishop Elia Dalla Costa, to join a secret network offering protection and safe passsage to Jews and other endangered people. His role in the network was uniquely suited to his talents - he became a courier. On the face of it he was undertaking the long training rides for which he was renowned, but in reality he was carrying photographs and counterfeit identity documents to and from a secret printing press. All were hidden in the frame and handlebars of his bicycle. In addition to this, Bartali hid his Jewish friend Giacomo Goldenberg, and Goldenberg's family. Gino Bartali was posthumously awarded with the honour Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and education centre in Jerusalem.