Press Releases


MONTREAL, APRIL 5, 2006 - Students from Laurier Macdonald High School in St. Léonard and Bialik High School in Côte Saint-Luc will come together on Tuesday, April 11 (9:30 a.m.) as part of a unique sensitization program leading up to the renaming of the former Wagar High School building in Côte Saint-Luc next month.

The Laurier Macdonald students visited the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre on March 29. This marked the start of their participation in a project which will culminate with the formal renaming of the former Wagar High School building in Côte Saint-Luc as the Giovanni Palatucci Facility. On April 11 Laurier Macdonald will present a screening of its film Ripples In Time, after which students will convene to the library where facilitators will lead them through an exchange of thoughts and comments on this program which has brought them together. Laurier Macdonald is located at 7355 Viau (corner of Jean Talon). Students from both schools will then take part in a renaming ceremony on May 16 at the Parkhaven building. The keynote speaker will be Major General (ret’d) Lewis MacKenzie, who has commanded Canadian ground troops in some of the world's most dangerous places: the Gaza strip, Cyprus, Vietnam, Cairo, Central America and Sarajevo. It was in Sarajevo that his superior leadership skills and courage came to the fore. At the start of the Bosnian Civil War he created and assumed command of Sector Sarajevo and, in the midst of a brutal civil war, with a contingent of troops from 31 nations, and under fire from all sides, managed to open the Sarajevo airport for the delivery of humanitarian aid. General MacKenzie retired from the Canadian Forces in March 1993.

Giovanni Palatucci saved the lives of 5,000 Jews destined to die in death camps during World War II. From 1938 to 1944, Palatucci was first in charge of the Office of Foreigners and later Chief of Police of Fiume, a city in northern Italy. Following the promulgation of racist laws in Italy, he forged documents and visas for thousands of Jews, sending them to internment camps where their protection was ensured with the assistance of his uncle, the Bishop of Campagna, and other members of his family. After the 1943 capitulation of Italy, Fiume was occupied by the Nazis. Palatucci remained as head of the police, though without real powers. He continued to help Jews and maintain contact with the Resistance until his activities were discovered by the Gestapo.

Palatucci refused a safe pass to Switzerland offered by a close friend, the Swiss Consul to Trieste, sending his Jewish fiancée instead. On September 13, 1944, Palatucci was arrested and condemned to death. The sentence was later commuted, and Palatucci was deported to the concentration camp of Dachau, where he died in February 1945 at 35 years of age.

EMSB Commissioner Dr. Syd Wise notes that the most important component of this project is the dialogue that will ensue between the students from two cultural divides. Jack Dym, the immediate past president of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre and Beryl Wajsman of the Institute for Public Affairs have come forward as the first corporate sponsors of this program. Mr. Dym is a former Wagar student and already the title sponsor of the EMSB Career Fair through his company, Pipe and Piling Supplies. Mr. Wajsman, the president of the Institute, attended Bancroft, Coronation and Northmount schools as a youth.

According to EMSB research, this will mark the first time in Canada that a public school building has been named after someone who saved lives during the Holocaust. There are a number of public schools in the United States and Europe named after Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved 10,000 Hungarian Jews from the Nazis.

English Montreal School Board (EMSB) Chairman Dominic Spiridigliozzi and Dr. Wise, the commissioner for Côte Saint-Luc and a former Wagar principal, are spearheading this initiative.

Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213