Haven on the Tram | God's World News

Haven on the Tram

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    Emanuele Di Porto stands in front of a bus in Rome, Italy, in October 2023. At 12 years old, Di Porto escaped Nazi deportation by hiding on a tram. (AP/Andrew Medichini)
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    Emanuele Di Porto sits in a number 23 route bus in Rome, Italy. (AP/Andrew Medichini)
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    People in Rome, Italy, hold signs with names of Nazi concentration and death camps during a march marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Rome’s Jews. (AP/Riccardo De Luca)
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    People pass bronze stones engraved with names of Jews killed by Nazis in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto neighborhood. (AP/Gregorio Borgia)
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    A former inmate of the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp gazes at ruins of gas chambers in 1979. The Nazis killed about a million people there, including Di Porto’s mother. (AP/Horst Faas)
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It’s been 80 years since Emanuele Di Porto spent an anxious 48 hours aboard an Italian tram. Recently, exhibits aboard Rome buses recounted how he once escaped the Nazis—with the help of a loving mother and kind conductors.

World War II was in its fourth year. German forces wanted to eradicate all Jews. Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Croatia, France—in country after country, Nazis rounded up Jewish citizens and sent them to concentration camps. Most died there.

The history should not be forgotten. So last fall, Rome’s number 23 bus route featured a short animated film called The Story of the Boy and the Tram. Riders watched the story of 12-year-old Emanuele Di Porto.

On October 16, 1943, Emanuele’s mother saw Nazi soldiers detaining Jews in the street outside their home. She left to warn her husband. From the window, the boy witnessed her capture. He ran into the street, screaming. Soldiers grabbed him and threw him into a vehicle with his mother.

In the mayhem, Emanuele’s mother did something difficult: She pushed him off the truck. Some accounts say she told soldiers he wasn’t her son. It was the last time he saw his mother.

“I walked without turning around,” Di Porto told the Times of Israel in 2021. “I was dying of fear.”

Emanuele headed to a nearby tram stop and hopped aboard. Hearing about the roundup, the conductor sat the boy next to him up front.

Di Porto still remembers that rainy day. He remembers sharing the driver’s snack. The man told a co-worker, “Look after this kid.”

For two days, Di Porto rode the tram, sleeping on board. Kindly drivers brought him food.

“For those two days that I was on the tram, I didn’t see anything. I was always thinking of my mother,” Di Porto says.

Eventually, someone recognized Emanuele and helped reunite him with his father and siblings.

In total, Nazi soldiers snatched some 1,200 members of Rome’s tiny Jewish community. Only 16 survived the Nazi death camps.

Today, Di Porto is one of the last people alive who experienced that horrific morning in Rome.

Rome’s Mayor Roberto Gualtieri calls the October 16 roundup “one of the most tragic events of the history of this city, of the history of Italy.”

In Rome, a brass cobblestone marks the place Emanuele’s mother was seized. And Di Porto, who still lives in the same family home, continues telling his story in hopes that the world will remember.

Love one another, as I have loved you. — John 15:12

Why? It’s important to remember both the painful and the pleasant. God can redeem situations that seem hopeless.

For more about World War II, see The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix in our Recommended Reading. 

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