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The “Pope of the Jews”

Lawrence Bush
December 30, 2017

Angelo Donati, a Jewish businessman and diplomat from the tiny Republic of San Marino who saved several thousand Jews in the Italian occupation zone in France and became known as the “Pope of the Jews,” died at 75 on this date in 1960. Donati, who hailed from Modena, was general consul of San Marino from 19235 to 1932, then president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Paris until 1939, when the fascist racial laws forced him out, then headed the Franco-Italian Bank in Nice, where he also ran the Committee Dubouchage, the committee to aid refugees. Thanks to the information that he provided, the general consul of Italy Alberto Calisse was able to oppose Vichy pressures to deport Jews to Poland and to provide Jews in the Italian occupation zone with documents that the Vichy police were obliged to respect. Donati also developed a plan to rescue all 30,000 Jews in Nice and its environs by bringing them to Italy if the Nazis were to take over the Italian occupied zone. The plan was derailed by Mussolini’s death in 1943. Nevertheless, according to an article by Erica Terry, “thanks to the help of Donati and the Italian authorities, thousands of Jews were saved by being permitted to cross into Italy from France. When it became too dangerous for him to remain in Nice, Donati escaped in 1943 to Switzerland.” He personally adopted two Jewish children, ages 8 and 10, whose German Jewish parents had been deported from France and murdered in concentration camps.

“Donati was . . . never able to carry on his plan and until his death, he refused to be called a hero. He nonetheless received many thank you letters from people he had saved and was nicknamed the Jewish Pope.” --Florence Dubosc, Riviera Buzz

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.