BOLOGNA, Italy (AP) — For more than seven decades, Martin Adler treasured a black-and-white photo of himself as a young American soldier with a broad smile with three impeccably dressed Italian children he is credited with saving as the Nazis retreated northward in 1944.
The 97-year-old World War II veteran met the three siblings – who are now octogenarians themselves – in person for the first time on Monday.
It was a happy ending to a story that could easily have been a tragedy.
When Adler first saw the children in 1944, he had his gun trained on a wicker basket where they were hiding.
He thought it might contain a German soldier. But the children's mother ran in front of his gun, and he stopped to listen.
Adler told The Associated Press that he still trembles when he remembers how close he was from opening fire on the basket.
It was during the coronavirus pandemic that Adler’s daughter, Rachelle Donley, was inspired to get in touch with the three siblings.
First, they shared a video reunion with Adler in December and then he traveled to Italy during the summer when some of the COVID-19 restrictions were loosened.