20-April-2000 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Saved 5,000 Jews During Nazi Occupation of Italy

ROME, (ZENIT.org).- Between 1938 and 1944, Giovanni Palatucci, who was in charge of the Foreigners Office and later Chief of Police in Fiume, northern Italy, saved the lives of 5,000 Jews, destined to extermination camps. After being discovered, he died in Dachau on February 10, 1945, in the very place from which he had saved so many.

Fr. Gianfranco Zuncheddu, postulator of Palatucci's Cause of Beatification, said that since "June 17 of last year, the beginning of the diocesan investigation for the beatification and canonization of the Servant of God as a martyr for the faith, we have succeeded in obtaining the edict of April 9. Now we await the response and judgment of the consultant theologians on his writings."

Italian police are going all out to help in Patalucci's Cause, in an effort to identify witnesses of his humanitarian work. In a program entitled "Fiume's Chief of Police," RAI (Italian Radio and Television) has dedicated a transmission of its program specializing in the search for persons, to Giovanni Palatucci's Cause of Beatification.

Palatucci was born in Montella, Italy, in 1909. He worked in Genoa's public security administration until 1937, when he moved to Fiume. Following the promulgation of racist laws in Italy, he began forging documents and visas for thousands of Jews, sending them to internment camps, "protected" with the added help of his uncle, the Bishop of Campagna. Giovanni Palatucci was engaged to a young Jewish woman, and saw her safely in Switzerland before returning to his work. On September 13, 1944, he was arrested by German security police, accused of conspiracy, and condemned to death. His sentence was later "commuted" to deportation to Dachau extermination camp.

The police department has carried out a large part of the historical research for the Cause of Beatification, which has helped the postulator, according to Fr. Albero Alberti, a police chaplain and national coordinator for the spiritual care of Italian police personnel. "An association has been formed around the figure of Palatucci by his friends and former policemen."

When the television program was presented, with some footage taken yesterday in the Department of the Higher Institute of Police in Rome, there were important directors of RAI present, as well as Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff of Rome, and Amos Luzzatto, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, who spoke about Palatucci, proclaimed "Just Among the Nations" in 1990 by Yad Vashem, the institution of the Jewish Memorial of the Holocaust in Jerusalem.

"There are two forms of heroism, the one stemming from an unexpected need or impulse, and Palatucci's: a daily heroism, which is repeated and confirmed in face of the certainty of danger being risked. The chief of police could not have been ignorant of the risk: he was too involved in the security mechanism not to realize. He acted knowing that he was moving toward his own sacrifice; for him, it was worthwhile to give his life for just one man," Luzzatto said.

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