Italian priest who saved Jews in WWII beatified

Italian priest who saved Jews in WWII beatified

Father Giuseppe Girotti helped refugees escape Turin, was informed upon, and perished in Dachau in 1945

Father Giuseppe Girotti (photo credit: courtesy Ordo Praedicatorum)
Father Giuseppe Girotti (photo credit: courtesy Ordo Praedicatorum)

An Italian priest who was killed for his efforts to save Jews during World War II was beatified in March by the Roman Catholic Church.

Father Giuseppe Girotti, whom Yad Vashem declared a Righteous Among the Nations in 1995, was beatified at a ceremony in the town of Alba, in northern Italy, on March 27. Beatification is the next step before sainthood.

News of the ceremony was overshadowed by the canonization the next morning in Rome of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.

Girotti, who was born in Alba in 1905, was a professor of theology in Turin and worked at a hospice for the elderly. According to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, after the Nazis occupied northern and central Italy in September 1943, Girotti “dedicated his efforts” to the rescue of many Jews in Turin.

“Risking his life, Girotti acted according to his values and religious beliefs, arranging safe hideouts and organizing escape routes from the country,” Yad Vashem’s website said.

According to an article on the website of the Ordo Praedicatorum, the Catholic order to which he belonged, Girotti had studied in Jerusalem, which, combined with his deep knowledge of scripture, led to his deep “cultural affinity” for Jews, to whom he referred as “elder brothers” and “carriers of the world of God.”

Girotti’s actions were reported by an informer and he was arrested on August 29, 1944, while “in the middle of transferring a wounded Jewish partisan” to a safe house.

He was held in various prisons and camps before being shipped to the Dachau death camp, where he “stood out for his generosity and openness toward the other inmates,” according to a fellow priest who was imprisoned at the same time.

Girotti was housed at Dachau with 1,000 other clergymen in a space originally designed for less than 200. He eventually fell ill and was sent to the infirmary, where he died at age 40 on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945. His death “was probably aided by a lethal injection of gasoline, as was the custom then,” his order wrote.

On his bunk, discovered later, an anonymous fellow inmate wrote “Here slept Saint Guiseppe Girotti.”

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