Press Releases


MONTREAL NOVEMBER 30, 2015 – Representatives from Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, have advised the English Montreal School Board that they do not intend on removing the name of Giovanni Palatucci from the list of Righteous Among the Nations.

The EMSB has been waiting patiently for a response from Yad Vashem since allegations arose in June 2013 from a group of historians and activists in Italy and abroad that Palatucci was unworthy of the title. In 2006 the EMSB named the former Wagar High School building in Côte St. Luc the Giovanni Palatucci Facility after the man who was revered worldwide for rescuing as many as 5,000 Jews from deportation to Auschwitz. The matter had been referred to the Chairman of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous.

Irena Steinfeldt, director of the Righteous Among the Nations Department at Yad Vashem, informed the EMSB that two and a half years after the allegations first came forward about Palatucci “we have not received any documentation that justifies resubmitting the file to the Commission. I haven’t heard from the Primo Levi Institute, who initiated the story in the New York Times, nor have I received a report from the historians’ commission that was established in Italy. As far as we are concerned, Giovanni Palatucci is on the list of the Righteous. “

The naming of the building was initiated by then EMSB commissioner Dr.Syd Wise, who passed away in November. It was part of a more elaborate program he introduced aimed at bringing Jewish and non-Jewish students together via exchanges, visits to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre and by survivors to schools.

“What we did was in good faith, and we based our decision on the facts as they existed 60 years after the war,” Dr. Wise said at the time of the allegations.

EMSB Chair Angela Mancini said that it was Dr. Wise’s request that the name of Palatucci not be removed from the building until Yad Vashem concluded its investigation. “Now that we have heard from Yad Vashem, I will bring their findings to our Council for further discussion,” said Ms. Mancini. “ But for now, that name will remain attached to the building.”

In previous correspondence, Yad Vashem Foreign Media Liaison Estee Yaaru explained to the EMSB that the title of Righteous Among the Nations is bestowed by an independent Commission for the Designation of the Righteous that is made up of Holocaust survivors, historians, and researchers and chaired by a retired Supreme Court Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court.   Each case is judged based on the material presented to see if it meets the criteria for recognition.  There are a number of criteria, but the most basic is that a non-Jewish person took extraordinary risks to try and rescue Jews during the Holocaust.  The title can be bestowed whether the person attempted to rescue one person or many.

“The fact that Yad Vashem spent over two years on this file shows that they took the allegations seriously,” said Ms. Mancini.

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