Champion Cyclist Gino Bartali’s Race to Save 800 Italian Jews During WWII

Bartali used the handlebars on his bike to hide counterfeit identity papers that saved Jews from death camps during the Holocaust.

Editor’s note: Wednesday marks the anniversary of the formal Sept. 2, 1945 surrender of Japan to the United States, when documents were signed officially ending WWII and years of unprecedented bloodshed. In honor of the Allies, we share the story of Gino Bartali. 

By: ISDA Staff

Gino Bartali, a leading cyclist during the 1930s, brought home three Giro d’Italia titles and won the Tour de France—twice.

But at the time, Bartali’s will to win extended far beyond accolades or trophies; he was racing to save the lives of countless Italian Jews who were being abducted and sent off to Nazi death camps, according to

Bartali used the handlebars on his bike to hide counterfeit identity papers, delivering them to Jews in hiding and handing over exit visas which allowed them to escape the camps.

His training and racing enabled him to freely travel across the country, past Italy’s fascist police, to deliver the coveted papers to the Italian resistance.

He is credited with saving the lives of roughly 800 people, CNN reports.

Born in Florence in 1914, the star cyclist — who’s popularity in Italy was comparable to Babe Ruth in the U.S. — was a devout Catholic whose parents were married by the local Cardinal, Elia Angelo Dalla Costa.

It was Dalla Costa who recruited Bartali into his secret network at a time where much of Italy had been taken over by the Nazis.

The “Iron Man of Tuscany” came in first in more than 180 other races, and helped unite Italy during a period of political upheaval when he won the 1948 Tour de France.

“Gino the Pious,” who passed away at the age of 85 in 2000, was married for 60 years to Adriana Bani and the couple had three children.

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