Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Part II / Doc. 1: Italy - The case of Giovanni Palatucci

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The case of Giovanni Palatucci – Righteous among the Nations or Nazi collaborator?
Portrait of Giovanni PalatucciYad Vashem – Righteous among the Nations Database

Palatucci Giovanni (1909 - 1945), honored on 12 September 1990. (Yad Vashem confirmed its decision to honour Palatucci on 15 February 2014.)

Rescue Story: Dr. Giovanni Palatucci, born in Montella, in Avellino province, in 1909, was appointed a police officer in 1937 and later that year he was transferred from Genoa to Fiume (later Rijeka in Croatia). Palatucci headed the office for foreigners at the local police headquarters in Fiume. He distinguished himself as gentle and reliable in his relations with local Jews, who were afflicted by two harsh anti-Jewish laws regarding internment, one applied in September 1938 and another in June 1940, which suddenly turned them into foreigners or without nationality.

Elena Eshkenasy Dafner recalled that Palatucci issued transit permits to her relatives who arrived clandestinely from Vienna, and others recollect delays in his executing internment orders. Palatucci’s workload became heavier, with the arrival of refugees after the Italian attack on Yugoslavia in April 1941. Hundreds of Jews fled to Fiume from Croatia, where the Ustaša antisemitic and anti-Serbian regime established itself. Other Yugoslav territories also were annexed to Italy in mid-May 1941. Hundreds of Jews were declined entrance to Fiume province because of Temistocle Testa, Palatucci’s superior. Those who were allowed to enter Italy immediately were interned as civilian internees.

Salvatore and Olga Hamburger received a residence permit from Palatucci, but since they did not know where to go, he offered to put them up for a few days in the attic of his office. The next day, they received a document enabling them to remain in Fiume until August 1942. Then the couple and their newborn baby girl, Renata, were transferred as “internati liberi” to the area of Modena. Palatucci also played a role in directing refugees clandestinely by sea to Bari during the period of German administration as of September 1943 (insertion: when Fiume became part of the German puppet state in Northern Italy, the „Republic of Salo“).

Unfortunately, Palatucci could not save his own life. He was arrested by the Gestapo on 13 September 1944. He was imprisoned and tortured in Trieste and condemned to death. Deported on 22 October 1944, to Dachau in Germany, Palatucci died on 10 February 1945. After the war, in 1953, in Israel, the municipality of Ramat Gan named a street in his honor; it is called “Hapodim Street.” In 1955, he was posthumously awarded a gold medal from the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities. Goffredo Raimo wrote a book about this martyr, A Dachau, per Amore – Giovanni Palatucci (1992).


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