- After 77 years, a US veteran has been reunited with three siblings he saved during World War II.
- Martin Adler, 97, traveled to Italy and was able to hug the siblings that he almost shot, thinking they were German soldiers hiding under a basket.
- Martin said the siblings’ mother was the real hero for jumping in front of his gun, shouting ‘Children, children, children.'”
A US veteran has reunited with the three children he saved from the Nazis in 1944.
Martin Adler, who helped rescue Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana Naldi during World War II, flew from Florida to Italy to meet with the siblings for the first time since 1944.
Martin was only 20 years old when he first met the siblings.
“Look at my smile,” he said after seeing them again. He brought them American chocolate bars, just as he did back in 1944.
Rachelle Donley, Martin’s daughter, organized the reunion. Her father had always kept a photo of himself and the siblings, and she was determined to track down the three children featured in the picture.
Italian journalist Matteo Incerti saw the photo and was able to locate where Martin had been stationed. The photo was printed in a local newspaper and the three children were identified as Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana.
During the war, the children’s mother concealed them in a wicker basket when Martin entered their house. He thought a Nazi was hiding there.
When Martin heard a sound from inside the basket, he picked up his gun and prepared to shoot, but he was abruptly stopped by the children’s mother.
“The mother, Mamma, came out and stood right in front of my gun to stop me [from] shooting,” Martin said. “She put her stomach right against my gun, yelling, ‘Bambinis! Bambinis! Bambinis!’ pounding my chest.”
He added, “That was a real hero, the mother, not me. The mother was a real hero. Can you imagine you standing yourself in front of a gun and screaming ‘Children! No!’?”
Martin and his company remained in the village after that day, and he would often stop by and play with the children, bringing chocolates with him.
Rachelle said she is “so happy” and “so proud” of her father for his actions that fateful day.
“Because things could have been so different in just a second,” she said. “Because he hesitated, there have been generations of people.”
Roberta Fontana, Giuliana’s granddaughter, agreed. Together, the three siblings have six children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“Knowing that Martin could have shot and that none of my family would exist is something very big,” Roberta said. “It is very emotional.”