By Mira Vigevani
Gino Bartali, three-time winner of the Giro d’Italia and twice of the Tour de France in the 1930s, will be posthumously awarded Israeli citizenship next month for helping save the lives of hundreds of Jews during WW II, said Pagine Ebraiche 24, the news portal of the Italian Jewish community.
The recognition for the great Florentine cyclist comes five years after he was proclaimed as a “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. The citizenship ceremony will be held at Yad Vashem on May 4, prior to the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia, which is having its “Big Start” in Israel, the first time a major cycling race will hold any stages outside of Europe.
In September, 1943, while serving as a courier for the Italian resistance, Bartali transported forged documents large distances during his bicycle training sessions. When he was stopped and searched by German occupiers or fascist soldiers, he specifically asked that his bicycle not be touched since the different parts were very carefully calibrated to achieve maximum speed.
The documents he delivered are credited with helping save 800 Jewish lives, according to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
According to Pagine Ebraiche 24 JNF is inaugurating a new cycle trail in honor of Bartali in Haruvi Forest, near Bet Shemesh.