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Italian Holocaust 'hero' exposed as Nazi collaborator

NEW YORK -- An Italian police chief long celebrated for saving 5,000 Jews during World War II was in fact a Nazi collaborator, a New York-based institute that studies Italian Jewry said Thursday.

Giovanni Palatucci, who died in the Dachau concentration camp in February 1945, aged 36, was regarded as Italy's answer to Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved thousands of Jewish workers during the Holocaust.

Over the years he was honored by Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial, and declared a martyr by Pope John Paul II, putting him on the path for beatification and sainthood.

But the Centro Primo Levi said fresh research it coordinated revealed that “Palatucci continued to work under the Germans and to provide information on the few Jews” in Fiume, where he was chief of police.

Fiume today is the Croatian city of Rijeka, on the Adriatic Sea.

Responding to the center's findings, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington has started taking down references to Palatucci in its summer show, “Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust.”

It also took down a case study of Palatucci from its website.

In a June 7 letter to the museum, the Centro Primo Levi said Palatucci was never police chief in Fiume, where there were in fact barely 500 Jews — far fewer than the 5,000 previously stated — of whom 80 percent ended up in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

“Palatucci did not send hundreds of Jews to Campagna to be protected by his uncle,” said the center's director Natalia Indrimi, who wrote the letter to the museum.

“According to the database of foreign Jews interned in Italy, only 40 Jews were interned in Campagna (in southern Italy, where Palatucci's uncle was the influential Roman Catholic bishop) and not by the order of Palatucci,” it said.

“Moreover it was a particularly vexed group — nine of them were eventually deported and one died following the hardship of internment.”

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