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The International School for Holocaust Studies

Echoes & Reflections

Lesson 7

Background Information on Giovanni Palatucci

Giovanni Palatucci served as commissioner in the office for foreigners in the police headquarters in the north Italian town of Fiume (Today the city of Rijeka located in Croatia. Beginning at the end of 1938, he tried to prevent the implementation of the race laws enacted against the Jews by the Italian fascist regime.

In March 1939, Palatucci became aware of more than 800 Jewish refugees who were set to sail to Palestine via Fiume. While collaborators with the Nazi regime hoped to waylay the ship and send the refugees back to Germany, Palatucci alerted the passengers and they safely reached southern Italy.

With the outbreak of World War II, the state of the Jews deteriorated, and Palatucci's activities on behalf of the Jews accelerated. He provided residency permits to allow people to remain in Italy, and tried to provide hiding places, food and money for them as well. As the number of Jews seeking sanctuary grew, Palatucci began sending people to southern Italy, in particular to the city of Campania, where his uncle, Jozef Palatucci served as archbishop.

When the Germans invaded Italy in September 1943, and occupied Fiume, Palatucci's efforts to save Jews became especially dangerous. Nevertheless, he took added steps to save the local Jews of Fiume as well as the refugees who had joined them. He provided false papers to any Jew who required them. In September 1944, Giovanni Palatucci was arrested by the Gestapo after someone informed on him, and sentenced to death. Palatucci spent a month in prison in Trieste. Following intervention by the Swiss Consul, Palatucci's sentence was commuted to exile and he was sent to Dachau. He died there four months later, on February 10, 1945. He was 36 years old.

After the war, the Group of Italian Jewish Communities presented Palatucci's family with a Gold Medal in appreciation for his actions. In September 1990, Palatucci was posthumously recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations. Because he had no living relatives at the time of his recognition, the medal and certificate were kept by Yad Vashem.

The late Giovanni Palatucci was honored on February 10, 2005 as a Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem tomorrow. Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, his Israeli counterpart, Gideon Ezra, the Italian Police Commissioner Giovanni De Gennaro, Italian Ambassador to Israel HE Sandro De Bernardin, members of the Association of Italian Immigrants in Israel and a delegation of some 160 people from Italy will attend the ceremonies. Elizabeth Quitt-Ferber, a survivor who was saved by Palatucci, will attend as well. The ceremony will be conducted in Hebrew and Italian. During the the program Palatucci's name was unveiled in the Garden of the Righteous.

371 Italians have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, through the end of 2004.

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