Rubino Romeo Salmoni, 91, who inspired Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning turn as Guido Orefice in Life Is Beautiful, passed away Sunday in Rome.

Salmoni detailed his survival in the German concentration camps of WWII in his memoir In the End, I Beat Hitler. Benigni adapted the book for his screenplay for the poignant 1997 film, which also won that year’s Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Score prizes, and was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Editing honors.

Rome’s mayor declared Salmoni “a great man who with his courage and determination managed to save himself from the hell of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Romeo was an example for young people and for the whole of Rome,” and The Central Council for Jews in Germany called Salmoni’s death a “great loss” to humanity.

Though Salmoni’s two brothers did not survive the concentration camp system, Salmoni wrote in his memoir, “I’m still here, hale and hearty. I came out of Auschwitz alive, I have a wonderful family, I celebrated my golden wedding anniversary, I have 12 splendid grandchildren – I think I can say I ruined Hitler’s plan for me.”