Catholics Defend 'Italian Schindler' on Nazi Claim

Vatican Paper Rejects Charge Giovanni Palatucci Collaborated

Righteous? Italian official attends ceremony honoring Giovanni Palatucci at Yad Vashem. New reports cast doubt on his status as a rescuer of Jews.
getty images
Righteous? Italian official attends ceremony honoring Giovanni Palatucci at Yad Vashem. New reports cast doubt on his status as a rescuer of Jews.

By Reuters

Published June 24, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The Vatican newspaper said on Saturday a decision by scholars to brand a wartime Italian previously praised for saving Jews as a Nazi collaborator was part of an attempt to smear the Catholic Church during the papacy of Pope Pius XII.

An article, titled “To Strike at the Church of Pius XII” and written by historian Anna Foa, said the decision to re-classify Giovanni Palatucci, a Catholic, as a collaborator was at best hasty and more study was needed.

Palatucci had been previously credited with saving around 5,000 Jews while he was police official in the city of Fiume, now part of Croatia. He died in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany in 1945 at the age of 35.

Giovanni Palatucci
wikipedia
Giovanni Palatucci

In 1990, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial honoured Palatucci as a Righteous Among the Nations, the highest recognition for those who helped Jews during World War Two.

But earlier this week The New York Times reported that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington was removing mention of his exploits from an exhibition after officials learned of new evidence that purports to show he was a Nazi collaborator.

In her article in the Vatican newspaper, Foa, a Jewish-Italian author and historian at Rome’s La Sapienza University, said the target of the move against Palatucci was “the Church of Pius XII”.

“The impression is that … in targeting Palatucci the desire was essentially to hit a Catholic involved in rescuing Jews …, ” she wrote.

“But this is ideology and not history,” she wrote.

The issue of whether the Vatican and the Church under Pius XII did all it could to help Jews had dogged Catholic-Jewish relations for decades. Pius reigned from 1939 to 1958.

Critics of Pius say he turned a blind eye to the Holocaust but his supporters say he worked behind the scenes to encourage the Church to save Jews because speaking out more forcefully would have worsened the situation for all.

Foa wrote that more documentation and study was necessary about Palatucci “from comparisons with other situations and not from interpretation”.

The New York Times article said more than a dozen scholars from the Centro Primo Levi at the Center for Jewish History in New York reviewed nearly 700 documents before concluding that Palatucci was a Nazi collaborator and not a saviour of Jews.

Among other things, the scholars concluded that Palatucci was sent to Dachau not because he helped Jews but because German occupiers accused him of embezzlement and treason.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.