The fake Typhus epidemic

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War can bring out the worst in people but also the best. The latter applies to Dr .Eugene Lazowski, who saved thousands of Jews from certain extermination and did this in a very creative manner.

Eugene Lazowski born Eugeniusz Sławomir Łazowski (1913, Częstochowa, Poland – December 16, 2006, Eugene, Oregon, United States}In a time when innocent people were brutally murdered only for their nationality and religion, one soldier stands out among the rest.He defied the Germans, repeatedly risking his life to save the lives of thousands. Dr. Eugene Lazowski is considered a hero to many, but for him, saving others was his only option—it was simply the right thing to do.

Lazowski provided medical care for his Jewish neighbors in Rozwadow.  The area had devised a system where if a Jewish resident needed medical assistance they would hang a rag on Lazowski’s fence and then Lazowski would make a house-call to their residence under the cover of darkness.  Lazowski’s medical oath required him to help people in need and his moral fiber compelled him to not think of race or religion when providing medical assistance

Before the onset of World War II Eugeniusz Łazowski obtained a medical degree at the Józef Piłsudski University in Warsaw. During World War II Łazowski served as a Polish Army Second Lieutenant on a Red Cross train,

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then as a military doctor of the Polish resistance Home Army. Following the German occupation of Poland Łazowski resided in Rozwadów with his wife and young daughter.

Łazowski spent time in a prisoner-of-war camp prior to his arrival in the town, where he reunited with his family and began practicing medicine with his medical-school friend Dr Stanisław Matulewicz. Using a medical discovery by Matulewicz, that healthy people could be injected with a vaccine that would make them test positive for typhus without experiencing the disease, Łazowski created a fake outbreak of epidemic typhus in and around the town of Rozwadów (now a district of Stalowa Wola), which the Germans then quarantined. This saved an estimated 8,000 Polish Jews from certain death in German concentration camps during the Holocaust.

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The doctors discovered if they injected a healthy person with a “vaccine” of killed bacteria, that person would test positive to Epidemic Typhus. In secrecy, Dr. Matulewicz tested it on a friend who was on special leave from a work camp in Germany. He desperately needed a way to avoid going back to face death in the work camp—and becoming just another number. He injected the man with the bacteria and sent a blood sample to the German laboratory. About a week later, the young doctors received a telegraph informing them their patient had Epidemic Typhus, which prohibited the man’s return to the work camp. It worked.

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He repeated this process on anyone who was sick, creating an “epidemic.” The Germans were terrified of the disease, not to mention very susceptible to it–they hadn’t been infected with it in many years. With each case of “Typhus,” the Germans would send a red telegram—a few more lives were saved. When the “disease” reached epidemic proportions, the Germans quarantined the area. No additional people were sent to concentration or work camps. Also, no Germans entered the area.

It looked promising for the young doctor until the Germans sent a medical inspection team into the region to verify the “disease.” The team, comprised of a few doctors and several armed soldiers, met Dr. Lazowski just outside the city, where a hot meal awaited the team. They started eating and drinking with the young doctor. The lead doctor was having fun drinking, and thereby sent the younger two doctors to the hospital. Fearing for their own safety, they only drew blood samples and left. Dr. Lazowski knew he had succeeded.

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He saved 8,000 people from certain death in Nazi concentration camps. It was his private war—a war of intellect, not weapons. Dr. Lazowski followed in his parents’ footsteps, who helped save the lives of Jewish people during the holocaust. His parents, later named Righteous Gentiles, hid two Jewish families in their home. While Dr. Lazowski didn’t hide families, he did help many Jews medically against German orders.

Towards the end of the war, Dr. Lazowski left Rozwadow when a German soldier, whom he had helped several months earlier, warned him that the Germans were going to kill him.They were on to his scheme.,with his wife and young daughter at his side, Dr. Lazowski ran out through their back fence for Warsaw. As he looked down the street, he saw that same soldier killing Jewish children.

In 1958, Lazowski emigrated to the United States on a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation and in 1976 became professor of Pediatrics at the State University of Illinois. He wrote a memoir entitled Prywatna wojna (My Private War) reprinted several times, as well as over a hundred scientific dissertations.

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Lazowski retired from practice in the late 1980s. He died in 2006 in Eugene, Oregon, where he had been living with his daughter

 

 

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