The Righteous Among The Nations
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. Palatucci headed the office for foreigners at the local police headquarters in Fiume (later Rijeka in Croatia). 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. Unfortunately, Palatucci could not save his own life. He was arrested by the Gestapo on September 13, 1944. He was imprisoned and tortured in Trieste and condemned to death. Deported on October 22, 1944, to Dachau in Germany, Palatucci died on February 10, 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).