World (AP)

Rome buses recount story of a Jewish boy who rode a tram to avoid deportation by Nazis. He’s now 92 | AP News

Rome buses recount story of a Jewish boy who rode a tram to avoid deportation by Nazis. He’s now 92 | AP News

ROME (AP) — Residents and visitors in Italy’s capital can ride a city bus this month that recounts how a 12-year-old boy escaped Nazi deportation from Rome’s Jewish neighborhood 80 years ago thanks to sympathetic tram drivers.

The traveling exhibit is a highlight of events commemorating the 80th anniversary of when German soldiers rounded up some 1,200 members of the city’s tiny Jewish community during the Nazi occupation in the latter years of World War II.

The bus takes the No. 23 route that skirts Rome’s main synagogue, just like that life-saving tram did,

Emanuele Di Porto, 92, was inaugurating the bus exhibit Tuesday. As a child, boy, was one of the people rounded up at dawn on Oct. 16, 1943 in the Rome neighborhood known as the Old Ghetto.

His mother pushed him off one of the trucks deporting Jews to Nazi death camps in northern Europe. He has recounted how he ran to a nearby tram stop — right near where the No. 23 stops today — and hopped aboard.

Di Porto told the ticket-taker about the round-up. For two days, he rode the tram, sleeping on board. Sympathetic drivers took turns bringing him food.

That the anniversary events coincide with the war that began Saturday when Hamas militants stormed into Israel added poignancy to the commemorations, organizers said Tuesday at Rome’s City Hall.

The Oct. 16 anniversary in Italy marks “one of the most tragic events of of the history of this city, of the history of Italy,″ Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri said. “This date is sculpted in the memory and the heart of everyone.”

Eventually, someone on the tram recognized the young Di Porto, and he was reunited with his father, who escaped deportation because he was at work in another part of Rome that morning, and his siblings. The last time he saw his mother alive is when she pushed off the truck.

Only 16 of the deportees from Rome survived the Nazi death camps.

Di Porto is one of the last people who lived through that hellish morning in Rome 80 years ago. Deportations followed in other Italian cities. Among the few still living survivors of deportations in the north is Liliana Segre, now 93, who was named a senator-for-life to honor her work speaking to Italian children about the 1938 anti-Jewish laws of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship.

While the 1943 roundups were carried out under German occupation, many Italians were complicit, noted Victor Fadlun, president of the Rome Jewish Community.

German soldiers drove the trucks crammed with deportees, and employees at the Italian police headquarters were printing fliers telling Jews to bring all their necessities with them, Fadlun said at a City Hall news conference to detail the commemorations.