That’s the strange and shocking new revelation regarding Giovanni Palatucci, known as the “Italian Schindler.” Palatucci was a wartime police official who has long been praised for saving 5,000 Jews during the Holocaust.
He has been honored in Israel, New York and Italy, events have been named in his honor, and he was even declared a martyr by Pope John Paul II, which puts him that much closer to sainthood.
The problem is, scholars now believe that the heroic “Italian Schindler” story is a complete myth. It might be more accurate that Palatucci was a Nazi conspirator. Worse, he may have been instrumental in sending Jews to Auschwitz.
Researchers aren’t just making this new claim willy-nilly, either. They pored over 700 documents at New York’s Center for Jewish Studies, and found that he was a “willing executor of the racial legislation” who, “after taking the oath to Mussolini’s Social Republic, collaborated with the Nazis.”
According to the heroic story, Palatucci destroyed documents to keep Jews from being sent to the camps, but researchers say that they’ve seen those documents, meaning they weren’t destroyed at all. Even if Palatucci was somehow covering his tracks, some 80 percent of the city’s 500 Jews were still sent to Auschwitz, the highest percentage of any Italian city.
Also, Palatucci wasn’t even a police chief. He was the guy in charge of executing racial laws. Instead of the “Italian Schindler,” he was more like the “Italian Jew Hunter.”
He came to an ignominious end in Dachau over accusations of embezzlement and treason, but not treason by virtue of rescuing people.
So where did the heroic legend come from? We don’t know. But Washington’s Holocaust Museum is not taking down a display dedicated to Palatucci’s heroism, so it seems pretty clear that the doubts cast over his story are pretty convincing.
What do you think of the “Italian Schindler” revelation?
[Image via: Wikimedia Commons]