Italian Police Chief Honored For Saving Jews During The Holocaust
New York, NY, May 19, 2005 … To pay tribute to those who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) posthumously presented an Italian Police Officer with the League's Courage to Care Award. Giovanni Palatucci, Chief of Police of Fiume, saved the lives of thousands of Jews destined for Nazi death camps by providing them with forged documents and visas. In 1944, he was accused of conspiracy and deported to Dachau, where he died at age 36 shortly before the camp was liberated.
At a dinner in honor of Palatucci May 18, in the presence of diplomats, ambassadors, high-ranking Italian government representatives, members of the Italian-American community and one whose life was saved as a result of Palatucci's courageous actions, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said:
Giovanni Palatucci was a shining light in the dark nightmare of the Nazi Holocaust. As a policeman who swore allegiance to uphold the law of the state he served, even though the law was unfit to uphold, he acted as a guardian and of the true elements of justice in an environment where justice had been eroded, distorted and polluted by political hatred. By his actions of rescuing Jews, he disobeyed the law of the land and obeyed a higher law, knowing that the ultimate divine judge of all humankind would deem that he properly upheld the only law a man of personal integrity, a sense of personal justice and moral responsibility could possibly have obeyed. [Full Speech]
Giovanni DeGenerro, Italy's National Police Chief, accepted the award on behalf of Mr. Palatucci. Mario Cuomo, former New York Governor was the ceremony's keynote speaker. Vladimir Fiser, 81, born in Croatia, bore witness. He fled to the Italian occupied zone of Croatia where he was interned as a war refugee until 1943 and it was during this period that Palatucci's actions saved him. Other speakers included Rabbi Dr. Alvin Kass, Chief Chaplain of the New York Police Department, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Permanent Observer to the United Nations for the Holy See and Rosanna Scotto, co-anchor of FOX 5 News in New York, who was the Mistress of Ceremonies.
"Giovanni Palatucci's story has become another simple but powerful story of a redemptive heart, willing to sacrifice his life to save others," said Gov. Cuomo. "He made the choice to fight the evil, his decency told him he could not ignore, even if it cost him his life."
"It is a tragic irony that this humane man, who turned so many people away from death in the camps, would die in one of them for his actions," Fiser said.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.