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'Italian Schindler' Likely Sent Jews to Auschwitz

John Paul II called Giovanni Palatucci a martyr
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2013 4:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – Washington's Holocaust Museum is taking down a display on a man once called the "Italian Schindler" for reportedly helping rescue thousands of Jews: It seems Giovanni Palatucci, whose legacy prompted Pope John Paul II dub him a martyr, may actually have worked with the Nazis in sending Jews to Auschwitz. The revelation comes after researchers pored through some 700 documents at New York's Center for Jewish Studies, which holds that he was "a willing executor of the racial legislation" who, "after taking the oath to Mussolini’s Social Republic, collaborated with the Nazis."

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The heroic story goes that as police chief in the Italian city of Fiume, Palatucci destroyed documents in an effort to keep the Germans from sending Jews to concentration camps, the New York Times reports. In the end, he died in a camp at Dachau. Now, however, researchers say the documents weren't destroyed; they've seen the papers, and they suggest that 80% of the city's 500 Jews were in fact sent to Auschwitz. That's the highest percentage of any Italian city. And Palatucci wasn't police chief; he was in charge of executing racial laws. Finally, he ended up in Dachau over accusations of embezzlement and treason—not for rescuing people, the experts say. The Times of Israel has extensive details on scholars' findings. (Read more Giovanni Palatucci stories.)

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