Pope's Directive Helped Save 800
Jews in 3 Cities, Papers Reveal
Pius XII Told Catholic Groups to Assist Those Fleeing
VATICAN CITY, 8 APRIL 2003 (ZENIT).
At least 800 Jews in three Italian cities were saved from Nazi
persecution in 1943 and 1944, thanks in part to an appeal from Pope Pius
XII, documents reveal.
The newly found evidence shows that in the cities of Livorno, Lucca and
Pisa, the Jews were spared after the Pope had asked various Church
groups to help out.
The network of assistance was made up of Oblate Priests of Lucca, the
archbishop of Genoa, Franciscan friars, cloistered nuns and Catholic
Gino Bartali, one of the greatest cyclists in Italian history, also
collaborated in the initiative. He hid false documents in the crossbar
of his bicycle to save the life of refugees.
These deeds have come out into the light thanks to letters and a
testimony written by Giorgio Nissim, a Jew from Pisa.
The documents were found by his children, Piero and Simona, and have
been examined by historians Silvia Angelini and Paola Lemmi, under the
supervision of Liliana Piccioto of Milan's Foundation of Jewish
Documentation. Giorgio Nissim died in 1976.
Following the 1943 imprisonment of members of Tuscany's "Delasem"
network (which aided Jews after discriminatory racial laws took effect),
Nissim continued his activity thanks to the collaboration of the three
Oblate Priests of Lucca. The three were referred to as Fathers Paoli,
Staderini and Niccolai.
"I organized a complete office of false documents in the premises
of cloistered nuns," Nissim recalled in his papers.
"Frequently, it was the priests themselves who added the false
That made it possible to save Jews by hiding them in a convent or
enabling them to reach liberated areas in Italy.
"I would go to Genoa as best I could to take the money given to me
by Father Repetto, the archbishop's secretary, and would then give the
funds to Father Paoli" to cover the costs of these operations, he
In a testimony given in 1969, kept in the archives of Milan's Center of
Contemporary Jewish Documentation, Nissim wrote that the network of
Catholic assistance "had received the order to maintain relations
[with the clandestine Jewish movement—editor's note] by Pius XII, the
Pope at the time."
Andrea, son of champion cyclist Gino Bartali, confirmed his father's
participation in that network that aided the Jews.
"His task was to take the photos and papers to clandestine printers
to produce the false document," Andrea Bartali said. "When he
arrived at the convent, he would get off the bicycle and put the
material in the crossbar, and then go. He also acted as a guide,
pointing out the less-known ways so that the refugees could reach some
areas in the center of Italy." ZE03040802