Series on Holocaust Rescuers Continues at University Campus

February 08, 2013

Father André Cirino, O.F.M., transported listeners to World War II Italy during a passionate presentation at Saint Leo University on Tuesday, February 5, sponsored by the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies.

Father André co-authored Three Heroes of Assisi in World War II with Josef Raischl, S.F.O. His speech recounted the stories of the three heroes featured in his book: Colonel Valentin Mueller, Bishop Giuseppe Nicolini, and Don Aldo Brunacci.

Father André said that Colonel Valentin Mueller “…saved the city for its people.” Mueller was a doctor, but also a German occupier. He knew that citizens were hiding Jews, but he chose to turn a blind eye. In return, the people of the city protected him. Mueller, in tandem with Bishop Giuseppe Nicolini, another hero in the area, strove to declare Assisi a hospital city. Once declared, the city received those wounded in World War II and obtained protection from the war. Bishop Nicolini worked with the third hero, priest Don Aldo Brunacci, to hide Jewish families during the war. Father Brunacci, a young risk taker at the time, created fake Italian IDs so the Jewish people could hide their true identities. To learn more about these three heroes of Assisi, visit Copies of Three Heroes of Assisi in World War II are also available through the website.

Father André’s presentation was the second in the series “To Save One Life: Catholic and Muslim Rescuers of Jews in the Holocaust.” The Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies (CCJS) at Saint Leo University is working with the Franciscan Center of Tampa on this important series, with each organization hosting a presentation on its campus.

The final presentation in the series will take place in March when religious studies scholar Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D., of Manhattan College discusses “Muslim Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.” Her CCJS presentation will take place from 1:30 to 3 p.m., Tuesday, March 19, at the Saint Leo University Student Community Center. The Franciscan Center presentation is at 5:30 p.m., on Wednesday, March 20.

Also helping to sponsor the series are: the American Jewish Committee of the West Coast Florida Region, the Florida Holocaust Museum, Suncoast Hillels, the Tampa Jewish Community Center & Federation, Saint Leo University’s Office of University Ministry, and the university’s Department of Philosophy, Theology, and Religion.

For further information on this program, please contact Dr. Abraham Peck, CCJS executive director, at (352) 588-7298, or