Fatebenefratelli Hospital & Syndrome K.

Initially Italy was an ally of Germany and the other axis powers. during World War 2.

By 1943, Italy’s military position had become untenable. Axis forces in North Africa were finally defeated in the Tunisia Campaign in early 1943. Italy suffered major setbacks on the Eastern Front as well. The Allied invasion of Sicily brought the war to the nation’s very doorstep. The Italian home front was also in bad shape as the Allied bombings were taking their toll. Factories all over Italy were brought to a virtual standstill because raw materials, such as coal and oil, were lacking. Additionally, there was a chronic shortage of food, and what food was available was being sold at nearly confiscatory prices. Mussolini’s once-ubiquitous propaganda machine lost its grip on the people; a large number of Italians turned to Vatican Radio or Radio London for more accurate news coverage.

In July 1943, Allied troops landed in Sicily. Mussolini was overthrown and imprisoned by his former colleagues in the Fascist government. The Italian king replaced Mussolini as prime minister with Marshal Pietro Badoglio.

On September 8, 1943, Badoglio announced Italy’s unconditional surrender to the Allies. The Germans, who had grown suspicious of Italian intentions, quickly occupied northern and central Italy.

The 450-year-old Fatebenefratelli Hospital which is situated on a tiny island in the middle of Rome’s Tiber River, just across from the Jewish Ghetto. When Nazis raided the area on Oct. 16, 1943, a handful of Jews fled to the Catholic hospital, where they were quickly given case files reading “Syndrome K.”

The name Syndrome K came from Dr. Adriano Ossicini, an anti-Fascist physician working at the hospital who knew they needed a way for the staff to differentiate which people were actually patients and which were Jews in hiding. Inventing a fake disease cut out all the confusion, when a doctor came in with a “Syndrome K” patient, everyone working there knew which steps to take. “Syndrome K was put on patient papers to indicate that the sick person wasn’t sick at all, but Jewish.

The name Syndrome K not only alerted hospital staff that the “patients” were actually Jewish refugees in good health but also served as a jab to their oppressors, specifically, Albert Kesselring and Herbert Kappler. Kesselring was a Nazi defensive strategist and the commander responsible for the Italian occupation, while Kappler was an SS colonel.

Hidden away in a separate ward of the facility, those “infected” with Syndrome K were instructed to cough and act sick in front of Nazi soldiers as they investigated Fatebenefratelli. The patients were said to be highly contagious, deterring Nazi officials from coming anywhere near the quarters they were being kept in. Nazi officials became terrified of contracting the mysterious illness, steering clear at all costs.

Credited mainly to doctors Sacerdoti, Borromeo, and Ossicini, the operation was only made possible with the help of the entire staff, who played along with the plan, knowing exactly what to do when confronted with an incoming patient diagnosed with Syndrome K..

“The Nazis thought it was cancer or tuberculosis, and they fled like rabbits,” Vittorio Sacerdoti, a Jewish doctor working at the hospital under a false name, told the BBC in 2004. Another doctor orchestrating the life-saving lie was surgeon Giovani Borromeo.

Initially, the hospital was used as a hospice on the premises of the San Giovanni Calibita Church. Later, it was expanded into a modern hospital by Dr. Giovanni Borromeo, who joined in 1934, with the help of Father Maurizio Bialek.

Besides Fr. Maurizio and Borromeo, other doctors on staff assisted the Jewish patients and helped to move them to safer hideouts outside the hospital. In May 1944, the hospital was raided and five Jews from Poland were detained. However, the ruse saved dozens of lives.

Fr. Maurizio and Borromeo also installed an illegal radio transmitter in the hospital basement and made contact with General Roberto Lordi of the Italian Royal Air Force. After World War II, Borromeo was lauded by Government of Italy for his work and was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. He died in the hospital on 24 August 1961.

If only one person in the Hospital, be it patient or staff, had reported it to the Nazis, then without a shadow of a doubt, all of them would have been killed.

The combined efforts of Sacerdoti, Borromeo, Ossicini, and the entire hospital staff were only revealed 60 years later, and Borromeo specifically was recognized by the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in October 2004, not only for his work with Syndrome K, but for transferring Jewish patients to the hospital from the ghetto long before the occupation of the Nazis.

The Fatebenefratelli Hospital was recognized as a shelter for victims of Nazi persecution, and was named a “House of Life” in June, 2016. The ceremony was attended by Ossicini, 96-years-old at the time, along with some of the very people that his heroic efforts had helped save six decades before.

Fatebenefratelli survivors embrace during a reunion at the hospital on June 21, 2016

Sources

https://qz.com/724169/an-italian-doctor-explains-syndrome-k-the-fake-disease-he-invented-to-save-jews-from-the-nazis/

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/93650/syndrome-k-fake-disease-fooled-nazis-and-saved-lives

https://allthatsinteresting.com/syndrome-k

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

A unique act of resistance

Nowadays we take it for greanted that we can coduct in peaceful protest, as a means to highlight our grievances.

However in Nazi occupied Amsterdam during World War 2 any form of protest could be and would be considered an act of resistancewhich could lead to being jailed and even death.

On August 5,1940 in order to preserve textile, the Dutch were given 100 textile points/ The measure was to last for 6 months. This would mean if you had spent the 100 points you could not get any news textiles, ie clothing etc.

40 of those points had to be used before November 1,1940 the remaining 60 points were to be used between November 1940 and February 1941. Additional to the points you still had to pay with regular money.

The picture above is of a man who had a novel way of protesting agasinst the measures, in order to show he had no longer any textile points he walked naked over the Leidsche Plein(Leidsche square) .

Unfortunately I don’t know the name of the man nor what happened to him. But I would like to salute him for his bravery because not only could this act of defiance cost him his life, the fact he walked around naked on a busy square is a brave act at any time.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

source

Franz Jägerstätter- Can’t be both Nazi and Catholic

The picture above is of Franz Jägerstätter and his wife Franziska Schwaninger on their wedding day Thursday April 9, 1936, the day before good Friday known as Holy Thursday.

Prior to Franz meeting his wife he had a bit of a reputation. A native of Radegund, near Salzburg. In his younger years he was regarded as a bit of a troublemaker, involved in several fights and the owner of the first motorcycle in the locality ,and even had a child out of wedlock. However he settled down after he met Franziska Schwaninger in 1935. He became a devout Catholic.

The couple did have 3 children

When German troops moved into Austria in March 1938, Jägerstätter rejected the offered position as Radegund mayor. He was the only person in the village to vote against the Anschluss in the plebiscite of 10 April 1938. Franz was also disturbed by the reports of the T4 Euthanasia program.

Three times he was called up for active service but he always refused.He became known as a conscientious objector who, for reasons of faith, refused to go fight for Hitler. He knew this could cost him his life.

In many writings, Franz told of his reasons for his actions: for him, to fight and kill people so that the godless Nazi regime could conquer and enslave ever more of the world’s peoples would mean becoming personally guilty. Franz prayed, fasted and sought advice. He also requested a talk with the Diocesan Bishop of Linz, Joseph Calasanz Fliesser.

The Bishop explained to Franz that, as the father of a family, it was not his task to decide whether the war was righteous or unrighteous. Franziska had accompanied her husband to Linz, but did not take part in his talk with the Bishop. She recalled the moment when her husband came out of the Bishop’s office: “’He was very sad, and told me: ‘They don’t dare themselves, or it’ll be their turn next:’ Franz’s main impression was that the Bishop did not dare to speak openly, because he didn’t know him – after all, Franz could have been a spy.”

In February 1943, when he received his last summons to Linz military barracks for active service with a motorised unit, he explained his intention of refusing to fight in what he regarded as an immoral war. He stated that he could not be both a Nazi and a Catholic He was promptly arrested and sent on to Berlin to stand trial before a court martial.

After two months in the Wehrmacht Prison in Linz, he was transferred to Berlin-Tegel.
There he was executed on August 9th. In one of the last letters before his death he wrote the well-known sentence: “If I write with my hands tied, it is still better than if the will were tied.” One of his last statements was “If the Church stays silent in the face of evil, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?”

By all accounts Franz was a hero and if there had been more people like him, God knows how the was would have gone.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

Sources

https://www.dioezese-linz.at/site/jaegerstaetter/english/biography/article/22528.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/an-irishman-s-diary-1.369074

https://www.meinekirchenzeitung.at/salzburg-tiroler-teil-rupertusblatt/c-kirche-hier-und-anderswo/ein-verborgenes-leben_a8009

Ankie Stork- The Stork who delivered 35 Jewish children.

Ankie Stork was a Dutch resistance fighter during the German occupation of the Netherlands. She saved thirty-five Jewish children from the Nazis by hiding them in several locations the town of Nijverdal during World War II. She acted as part of Utrechts Kindercomité,(Utrecht Children Committee) a Dutch resistance group based in Utrecht.

Ankie was a member of the Hengelo manufacturing family, the daughter of Johan Charles Stork, the director of the Koninklijke Stoombleekerij in Nijverdal.
She became a lecturer and spokesperson after the war. She continued to reside at two residences in Enschede and The Hague until shortly before her death. She died in Enschede on November 23, 2015, at the age of 93.
Her father and brother,Piet, had tried to escape to England at the start of the occupation of the Netherlands, but were arrested. After they were released ,they turned their home into centre of resistance and also a hiding place for Jews.
In 1942 Ankie started to study social geography. She had to end her studies quite soon after she started because she refused to sign the Loyalty declaration, which was a declaration pledging loyalty to the German occupier.

In 1943 her cousin Anne Maclaine Pont asked her to join the resistance by starting to sell copies of “Het lied der achttien dooden” (the song of the 18 dead) by Jan Campert in order to fund the resistance.
Later on with help from others like the Pastor Hendrikus Berkhof, who had warned about the dangers of Nazism during his sermons, to find hiding places for Jewish children, she found places for these children in the eastern rural parts of the Netherlands.
In May 1944 she was caught and arrested but was released after 6 weeks due to lack of evidence.
Because of her and her helpers 35 Jewish children survived the war.

Sources

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn44496

https://peoplepill.com/people/ankie-stork/

https://dirkdeklein.net/2018/01/12/jan-campert-the-song-of-the-eighteen-dead-a-ww2-hero/

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

Making life difficult for Jews.

Fietsen

Approximately 105,000 OF THE 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands were murdered during the Holocaust. The attempt to erase the Jews from the country did not happen overnight ,it was a gradual process.

Every few weeks new measures were introduced to make the life for the Dutch Jews as hard as possible. Some of these measures appeared to be quite subtle and non malicious , like the handing in of bicycles.

In June 1942 the Jews in Utrecht were required to hand in their bikes, the language used in this announcement(picture above) was important because for a bystander it looks quite harmless, they could assume that the Jews were not forced to give up their bikes, but were requested in a friendly manner to comply to the announcement. The line in the middle of the poster(in bold letters) states “The opportunity to handing in bicycles exists at the cleansing post Groeneweg”

This was a clear indication that the bikes were going to be cleaned first before they were sold on or just confiscated by the Nazi regime, and I say Nazi regime and not Germans because it was the Dutch civil servants in charge of this.

Boycotting or banning Jews was also something that gradually sneaked into general society.

No Jews allowed in the local butcher shop

geen

No Jews allowed in the park.

verboden

Restrictions of movement for Jews in Slenaken

beperking

Thankfully there were some organisations who actively rallied  for boycotting businesses and leisure centres  who banned Jewish fellow citizens from their premises or shops.

They urged workers to stop working for each new outburst of  anti Jewish bestiality.Capture

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

 

Source

NIOD

 

When enough was enough-The February strike.

2020-02-25 (1)

On February 25, 1941 the Dutch decided that enough was enough. No longer would they stand idly by to see their Jewish neighbours being treated they way they were.

The first 8 months of the Nazi occupation did not see that much change to the Dutch, The changes were all gradual.However there were increased tensions. The WA(Weerbaarheidsafdeling-defense section), the para  military arm of the Dutch Nazi party NSB,were actively involved  provocative and intimidating actions  in Jewish areas in Amsterdam. This resulted in one of the members of the WA, Hendtik Koot being killed by a local resistance group in Amsterdam on 11 February 1941.

koot

The day after on February 12,1941, German soldiers assisted by Dutch police besieged the old Jewish quarter  and blocked it off from the rest of the city by putting up barbed wire fences , opening draw bridges and erecting police checkpoints. The neighbourhood was now forbidden for non-Jews.

a'dam

A week later on the 19th of February the German Grüne Polizei stormed into the Koco ice-cream salon, which was owned by Ernst Cahn and Alfred Kohn, both were Jewish refugees who had fled Germany. . A fight ensued and some ammonia gas escaped in the incident and several police officers were injured.

The head of the SS in the Netherlands,Hanns Albin Rauter. reported the incident to Heinrich Himmler on February the 20th, and indicated that the 2 men Cahn and Kohn had willfully attacked the police officers.

The death of Hendrik Koot and the incident at the ice cream salon were used as an excuse to initiate the first raids on Jews in the Netherlands on February 22 and 23,1941.

427 Jewish men, age 20-35 were arrested and sent to Kamp Schoorl.

raid

raid 1

Most of then were deported eventually sent to  Mauthausen concentration camp, the majority of  them died within the year, only 2 survived.

Ernst Cahn was executed on March 3,1941 and Alfred Kohn died in Auschwitz.

Following this raid, the Communist Party of the Netherlands called  for action on 24 February, during an open-air meeting they did this at their own peril because the party had been made illegal by the Nazi occupiers. Nonetheless they organised a strike to be held on February 25 and 26, 1941 in Amsterdam as a protest against the pogrom and also the forced labour in Germany.

The Dutch population listened to the call for strike and about 300,000 workers did go on strike.

On Tuesday, February 25, tram drivers and sanitation workers started it. Followed quickly by dockworkers . Workers on bicycles rang the doorbells at homes and halted traffic in the streets, imploring drivers to join them.

Rauter ordered harsh actions against the strikers and orders SS troops to shoot, 9 people were killed. The strike initially started in Amsterdam, but the following day workers in Hilversum,Zaandam,Haarlem and Utrecht.

Additionally to the 9 people killed during the strike, another 24 were injured and on March 13,1941 , 3 of the organizers were executed. Ironically those 3 actually saved 3 minors who had members of a group of 18  of the resistance group “De Geuzen” . Because of their young age their death sentence were changed to life imprisonment.

The Nazis decided to execute ,Hermanus Coenradi, Joseph Eijl en Eduard Hellendoorn, who were 3 of the organizers of the February strike instead, together with the other 15 of De Geuzen.

The Nazi regime finally showed its real face to the Dutch.

The strike was the first and only direct action against the Nazis’ treatment of Jews in Europe.

This monument called “De Dokwerker” the Dockworker is dedicated to the struikers of the February strike. It is situated on Jonas Daniël Meijerplein, the square where most of the 427 Jewish men had been arrested.

dokwerker

February 25, 1941 the day when the Dutch said “Enough is enough” unfortunately despite the brave efforts and the sacrifice of those who were killed for it, it did not stop the murder of 104,000 Dutch Jews.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

Sources

 

https://web.archive.org/web/20110929140015/http://www.joodsmonument.nl/page/274192

https://historiek.net/februaristaking-1941-protest-jodenvervolging/7124/

https://www.verzetsmuseum.org/museum/nl/tweede-wereldoorlog/begrippenlijst/achtergrond,stakingen/februaristaking

https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/amsterdam-general-strike-february-1941

https://www.npostart.nl/2doc/22-02-2016/KN_1678989

 

 

 

 

 

Simple acts of defiance in Geleen-Greeting the Jewish neighbours.

Ster

Every once in a while I come across a story which makes me immensely proud to be a native from Geleen.

Those of you who read my blogs on a regular base, know that I was born in the town of Geleen in the south East of the Netherlands.

Most of the Jews who lived in Geleen during World War 2 were killed during the Holocaust. I am not saying that the Dutch could not have done more to save more of their Jewish neighbours , because there is more they could have done.

However on May 10,1940 the Netherlands got a rude awakening. They were too naive to believe that the Nazis would honour the Dutch neutrality. On may 10,1940 the Germans invaded the country.

Initially there was not that much change, not even for the Jewish population. But gradually new laws were introduced and often any breach of those laws was punished by death. It eventually became clear how evil the Nazis were and they ruled by instilling fear in the population.

However there were several times where the Dutch defied the Nazi regime . The biggest act of defiance was the February strike in 1941, where over 300,000 people joined the strike in protest against the treatment of the Jews. The strike was violently stopped by the Nazis.

But there were other small acts of defiance in the Netherlands. On May 2,1942 the Jews were forced to wear a yellow star on their clothes, to be visible at all time in public.

A citizen of Geleen,Rie op den Camp wrote in his diary on May 9,1942, “Silent resistance against the Jewish star. Many people greet all Jews they meet, Even if they don’t know them. Some non Jewish citizens even wear a star too. In may places people have removed the signs saying “Forbidden for Jews” The krauts have arrested some of these ‘offenders’ on several places.

verboden

I never knew about this, it is times like this when I feel a bit more proud to be from Geleen.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

Sources

http://members.home.nl/w.brasse/vergeten_joden_van_geleen.htm#Jodenvervolging

Boycotting the Cinema-A small act of resistance.

verboden

The majority of the Jews in the Netherlands were killed during the Holocaust, The estimates vary from 100,000 to 104,000. It would be too easy to say that this was because the Dutch were willing participants in the Nazi ideology, because for the majority this wasn’t the case.

The large number and percentage of Jewish victims in the Netherlands compared to say to Belgium and France can be explained in the first place by the fact that in the Netherlands, the German police had sole authority over the organization and execution of the deportations, independently of the occupying regime and the local authorities. This doesn’t mean the German police weren’t helped by the Dutch,because they were . Some of the Dutch collaborators made a profit out of it.

On the other hand there was also the fact that the Dutch had a very efficient citizens registry, which made it easy for the Nazis to find the Jewish citizens.

What I find most disturbing is the fact that although the majority didn’t help the Nazis, many did turn a blind eye. or simply did nothing, which I think is just as bad as collaborating.

The persecution of Jews did not happen overnight, Gradually new laws were introduced undermining the Jews in daily life.

On January 8 1941 Jews were forbidden to enter cinemas, this led to a call to boycott cinemas. Posters with the texts “Boycott this Cinema” and “No hate for Jews in the Netherlands” were posted on the doors of cinemas. Sometimes they also had posters protesting low salaries.

boycott

In February 1941 there was also a nationwide workers strike,in defense of persecuted Dutch Jews and against the anti-Jewish measures and activities  the Nazis in general.The strike was organized after a number  of arrests and raids  by the Nazis in the Jewish area of Amsterdam. It started on 25 February 1941 ; on 26 February, 300,000 people joined the strike. The strike was violently stopped  by the German occupiers after three days

Despite the inaction of many Dutch there were many others who risked their lives helping their Jewish neighbours.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

Sources

NIOD

Films

Female beauty and War.

Betty Grable

I have done so many pieces on the horrors and the ugly side of World War 2 so I decided that today I am going to turn it around a bit. Today the focus will be on celebrating some of the beautiful women who served in WWII in a variety of ways.

The picture above is off the Actres/Pin Up girl Betty Grable.showing off her “Million Dollar Legs”.Undoubtedly that picture would have put a smile on the face of many service men.

nurse

Alas, it is not known who this Army nurse was or why she was wearing US Army threads. The only information is the postcard itself, that she was in Australia during November 1942 – and she might have been somewhere else in the Pacific. However, whoever or wherever she was,her presence here must certainly must have been appreciated.

red army

Red Army snipers assemble before heading to the front. 1943.

Sniper

19-year-old Soviet sniper Roza Shanina had 59 confirmed kills, 1945

pin up

It could put a descriptive text here filled with innuendo and double entendre, but lets keep it clean suffice to say it is a picture of a US Pin Up girl sitting on  a torpedo taken in 1944

aleksandra

Aleksandra Samusenko was the only female Soviet tank officer in the 1st Guards Tank Army, 1943.

ida

Actress Ida Lupino, as a lieutenant in the Women’s Ambulance and Defense Corps at a telephone switch board in Brentwood, California, on January 3, 1942.

Mrs Titus

Mrs. Titus, 77-year-old air raid spotter of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, carries a gun as she patrols her beat, on December 20, 1941. Mrs. Titus signed-up the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. “I can carry a gun any time they want me to,” she declared.

simone

Simone Segouin, aka Nicole Minet , was a  French Resistance fighter who served in the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans group. one of  her first acts of resistance was stealing a bicycle from a German military administrator, which she then used to help carry messages.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

The World War 2 hero who saved my sight.

Charles

Just before Christmas 2011 I lost the sight in my right eye. The retina had become detached but after 2 operations the sight could not be saved, in fact my eye shrunk, dramatically  and I have now a glass shell with  an eye painted on it in front of the remainder of my eye.

In November 2014 the retina in my left eye also became detached, so I was facing going blind. I had to undergo an emergency operation in a Hospital in Cork which is 100 km away from my home in Limerick.

In Cork the consultant surgeon advised me he would be putting a scleral buckle in place to re-attach my retina and to save my eye and sight. The operation was a success this time and my eye was saved.

buckle

The man who pioneered this technology was Dr Charles L. Schepens. He was born in Mouscron, Belgium, in 1912  He initially studied mathematics before graduating from medical school in 1935 at State University of Ghent in Belgium.In 1937 he served as assistant to Dr. L. Hambresin in Brussels.

In 1940, he was appointed as a Captain in the Medical Corps of the Belgian Air Force, where he served until the country was invaded by the Nazis in May 1940. He escaped to France and worked with the French and Belgian resistance,  In 1942, under the nom de guerre “Jacques Pérot,” he spearheaded a secret information and evacuation pipeline in the Pyrenees, under the cover of a country lumber mill near the village of Mendive. He was arrested several times by the Gestapo.

He was first arrested by the Gestapo in October 1940 while he still was in Belgium  on false accusations  of using a bus to transport Allied pilots out of Belgium. Although he was released 10 days later, this experience turned the previously apolitical doctor into an activist, and he allowed his office to be used as a post office for underground agents, arranging for the transfer of maps and such information as troop movement.

In 1942, a spy in Gestapo headquarters alerted him that he was about to be arrested, and he escaped to Paris.

In an of the mill  effort to find  an escape route to Spain, he and a group of fellow resistance members came across  an abandoned sawmill near the town of Mandive in the Pyrenees on the Spanish border.

One of the key features was a 12-mile-long cable-car system extending up the mountain and ending near the border.

Dr. Schepens, bought the mill in July 1942 with backing from a wealthy French patriot and had it in full operation by the end of the year. The site became a functioning lumber enterprise, taking orders, delivering wood and meeting a payroll. Not to cause any suspicion Dr. Schepens(aka Jacques Perot)  developed relationships with the occupying Germans, leading his Basque neighbors to think that he was a Nazi collaborator.

Men, mainly men he helped to escape, who did manual labor around the mill could secretly ride the cable-car system to the top of the mountain and slip into Spain, often with the assistance of a shepherd named Jean Sarochar.

MILL

More than 100 Allied pilots, prisoners of war, Belgian government officials and others made their way out of France over the cable railway. The system also was used to move documents, currency, propaganda and other materials into and out of France.

Everything went according to plan until 1943: That year, a captured resistance agent exposed him. The Gestapo came for him a second time. He escaped before they could arrest him. He had told the Gestapo “it is now 10 o’clock. I have 150 workers idle, because they have not been given their orders this morning. Give me 10 minutes with them. I’ll give the orders and come back.”. He then just walked out.

He spent 16 days in the forest before reaching Spain and, eventually, England, where he resumed his medical career.

In the mean time the Nazis held Dr. Schepens wife and children as bait to lure him out of hiding. However eventually his wife and children  made their own daring escape, hiking through the mountains to reach Spain, and were reunited with Dr. Schepens nine months later in England.

After the war, Schepens resumed his medical career at Moorfields.In 1947, he immigrated to the United States and became a fellow at the Harvard Medical School.

harvard

He became famous in the ophthalmic community for his work in creating the first binocular, stereoscopic indirect ophthalmoscope (1946) and in treating retinal detachment with an encircling scleral buckle (1953).

If the Gestapo had arrested him the second time, he more then likely would have been executed. Amazing to think of what could have happened to my eye in that case.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

$2.00

Sources

https://eye.hms.harvard.edu/news/charles-schepens-featured-in-eyeworld

https://eye.hms.harvard.edu/charlesschepens

Washington Post

https://www.eyeworld.org/article-ophthalmologist-who-created-vitreoretinal-subspecialty-lived-double-life-as-wwii-resistance-fighter-and

https://www.aao.org/biographies-detail/charles-schepens-md