Published on 24 January 2024

January 27: International Day to Commemorate the Victims of the Holocaust

In memory of Venerable Father Cortese, a friar of the Basilica of St. Anthony, who saved hundreds of people from the fury of Nazi persecution

On 27 January, the International day to Commemorate the Victims of the Holocaust, instituted in 2005 by the General Assembly of the United Nations to mark their liberation from Auschwitz concentration camp, the friars of the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua remember their fellow friar, the Venerable Placido Cortese (1907-1944), who was the director of the Messenger of Saint Anthony magazine.

During the Second World War, Father Cortese, from his confessional in the Basilica, secretly coordinated the rescue operations, in concert with the Italian resistance movement, of hundreds of Jews, Allied soldiers and civilians persecuted by the Nazis and the Fascists. In January 2021 a ‘Stolperstein’ (stumbling stone) was placed on the exact spot where, on October 8, 1944, he was kidnapped by the Nazis and transferred to the Gestapo bunker in Trieste, where he was brutally tortured, in vain, for information. He was eventually killed and his body cremated in the Risiera of San Sabba lager in Trieste.

The figure of Father Cortese continues to this day to fascinate those who discover him for the first time. Among them is Ruben Ferreira, a painter from Lisbon who lives and works in London. Ferreira learned about Father Cortese while visiting the Basilica last year and, deeply impressed by his story, dedicated an original painting to him called The Courageous Silence of Fr. Placido Cortese. The painting portrays him as a “martyr of silence.”

There is no shortage of international historical research on the Venerable Father Cortese. The University of Padua is conducting two studies on him: the first on the Paduan concentration camp of Chiesanuova, conducted in various archives (Rome, the Vatican, Ljubljana and Belgrade); the second, which is about to begin, on archives in London, Trieste, Ljubljana and others, focusing on the last part of Fr. Cortese’s earthly life.

Finally, there is a video from the United States dedicated to him called Modern Saints. See: [].