Today Martin Adler’s dream finally came true. The 97 years old former WWIII American soldier met in Bologna Bruno, Giuliana, and Mafalda Naldi, the siblings he photographed after nearly killing them in October 1944 when they suddenly came out of a basket. Martin Adler, who is among the protagonists of the Liberation of Italy from Nazi-fascism, was then in his twenties and never forgot that moment.
After 76 years, he decided to try and track them down, although it was not an easy task, given that he did not know either their names or that of the town. In 2020, with his daughter Rachelle’s help, he shared the photo on social media. With the help of the Italian journalist Matteo Incerti, the mission was completed and in Italy the story went viral, as a spot of good news in the throes of the pandemic. In December, Adler finally was able to have a video with Bruno, Mafalda, and Giuliana Naldi, who are now in their eighties. And today, he met them at Bologna airport and warmly greeted them from his wheelchair wearing a t-shirt saying “Martin’s bambini, forever kids”.
Adler, who is Jewish and went through the war with a Star of David hidden in his boots, entered a house in Monterenzio, near Bologna, with a companion of the 339th Infantry Regiment during the Italian campaign in October 1944.
Once inside they heard sounds coming from a basket and they were ready to shoot until the mother rushed in shouting ‘bambini, bambini!’ before they opened fire. When he saw three small children, two girls and a boy, Adler’s heart melted and he asked the woman if he could take a photo with them.
He always described his meeting with the children as “the happiest moment of the war, the only happier moment was when the war ended,” Ms. Adler Donley said to the New York Times. “That smile in that picture is so genuine,” she said.
Now in Bologna, he finally reconnected with the former kids and was welcomed by the book I bambini del soldato Martin (Soldier Martin’s kids) that Matteo Incerti dedicated to his touching story.
From top, Martin Adler with the Naldi siblings in October 1944 and the Naldi brothers waiting for him at the Bologna airport.