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In my last  On the Square column , I took exception to a  New York Times piece  which   assailed Giovanni Palatucci, an Italian policeman honored by Yad Vashem for rescuing Jews during the Holocaust, and also under consideration for sainthood. Relying on  highly questionable allegations , the  Time s left the impression that Palatucci’s widely honored heroism was a manufactured “myth;” and that, far from being a savior of Jews, he actually helped persecute them. I commented:

 The  Times  article was not original, but a repackaging of an earlier piece by the Italian daily,  Corriere della Sera , which had aggressively attacked Palatucci. What the  Times  did not reveal, however, is that the  Corriere’s  sensational charges were immediately and severely criticized by a host of historians and experts; and this criticism has only grown since.

To its credit, the  Times  has now acknowledged that criticism, and evidence in Palatucci’s favor. In a  follow-up piece by Patricia Cohen  (author of the original article), the  Times  noted:
The Rev. Angelo Maria Oddi, president of the  Giovanni Palatucci Association  in Italy, wrote a defense of Palatucci on the group’s Web site and said the association had documentation from people whose lives he had saved.

Among them is Edna Selan Epstein, a Holocaust survivor now living in Chicago, who wrote Yad Vashem to reinforce her support for Palatucci’s status as a Righteous Gentile:
 My parents both independently told me on a number of occasions that we survived in large part thanks to the help of Giovanni Palatucci. My mother also told me that Giovanni Palatucci was perfectly aware that the Germans “would get him” as a result of his actions in that regard.

Cohen’s new  Times  piece also cited an article in the  L’Osservatore Romano  by historian Anna Foa, a leading authority on Italian Jewish history, which strongly defended Palatucci.

The  Times  even quoted from my own column on the subject:

In the United States,  First Things , a conservative journal about religion and public life, published  an article  last week condemning the new reports about Palatucci as an attempt to use the “alleged ‘discovery’ as a platform from which to make sweeping and unfair allegations against Italians, the papacy, and even parts of the Jewish community itself.”

Putting aside that I wasn’t “condemning” anyone—only asking for basic fairness—I’m grateful for the citation. But I still have three objections to the  Times  latest   piece:

  1. The original article was prominently displayed on the front page of the official print version, while this follow-up article, though far more accurate and balanced, was relegated to page C-3 of the Arts section.

  2. The title of the new article, “Discredited Wartime Hero’s Backers Rebut Charges,” should not have used the word “discredited” in its headline, since the whole point of the discussion, as the  Times  itself now concedes, is that Palatucci’s life-saving efforts have  not   been conclusively “discredited”—quite the contrary—even if the exact number of Jews he saved remains in question.

  3. The organization that has taken the lead in the movement against Palatucci is the  Primo Levi Center in New York , which the  Times  continues to treat as a non-partisan institution devoted to dispassionate historical research. But as I pointed out in my column, the Levi Center’s website assails Pius XII—and in one case, links that criticism to their campaign against Palatucci—without giving any substantial evidence in their defense.

That said, it is welcome to see the  New York Times  improve and partially self-correct their reporting on this subject. One hopes that trend continues in the future.

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