Rome, Sep 24: Italian cycling champion Gino Bartali was recognised as “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Israeli museum of Yad Vashem, which has formally added him onto the honour list of the gentiles who helped Jews escape the Holocaust, media reported Monday.
Yad Vashem wrote on its website that the three-time Giro d’ Italia champion and two-time Tour de France winner, who died aged 85 in 2000, “came to play an important role in the rescue of Jews” during World War II, Xinhua reported citing media reports.
Tuscany-born Bartali acted as a courier for a Jewish-Christian network set up following the 1943 German occupation in Italy, transporting forged documents hidden in the frame of his bicycle, though he knew that he was risking his life.
This network saved the lives of hundreds of Jews, the Holocaust memorial said adding that Bartali never spoke of his underground work after the war and hence many of his courageous endeavours remained unknown.
Bartali will be honoured in a ceremony in Italy which has yet to be scheduled. His son Andrea said that he and his mother have been invited by the Israeli government for a cycling event named after the champion next month.