Dr. Eugene Lazowski born Eugeniusz Sławomir Łazowski (1913, Częstochowa, Poland – December 16, 2006, Eugene, Oregon, United States) was a Polish medical doctor who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust by creating a fake epidemic which played on German phobias about hygiene. By doing this, he risked the German death penalty, which was applied to Poles who helped Jews in the Holocaust.
During World War II Łazowski served as a Polish Army Second Lieutenant on a Red Cross train, then as a military doctor of the Polish resistance Home Army. Thanks to a medical discovery by his friend, Dr Stanisław Matulewicz, Łazowski created a fake outbreak of Epidemic Typhus, a dangerous infectious disease. He spread it 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. Łazowski did this in utmost secrecy because he, like all Poles, were under the threat of execution by the Germans if they helped Jews. In 1958, Lazowski emigrated to the United States on a scholarship from 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.
The Polish Schindler
Before the onset of World War II Eugeniusz Łazowski obtained a medical degree at the Józef Piłsudski University in Warsaw. During the German occupation 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 practising medicine with his medical-school friend Dr Stanisław Matulewicz. Matulewicz discovered that by injecting a healthy person with a "vaccine" of killed bacteria, that person would test positive for Epidemic Typhus without experiencing the symptoms. The two doctors hatched a secret plan to save about a dozen villages in the vicinity of Rozwadów and Zbydniów not only from forced labor exploitation, but also Nazi extermination. Łazowski, the Polish 'Schindler', created a fake typhus epidemic in the town of Rozwadow and its vicinity and spared 8,000 Jews from Nazi persecution. He used medical science to deceive the Germans and save both Jews and Poles from deportation to the Nazi concentration camps.
Germans were terrified of the disease because the disease was highly contagious. Those infected with typhus were not sent to concentration camps. Instead, when a sufficient number of people were infected, the Germans would quarantine the entire area. However, the Germans would not enter the FLECKFIEBER zone, fearing the disease would spread to them also.
In this way, while Dr. Lazowski and Dr. Matulewicz did not hide Jewish families in their homes, they were able to spare 8,000 people from 12 ghettos from summary executions and inevitable deportations to concentration camps. Jews who tested positive for typhus were summarily massacred by the Nazis, so doctors injected the non-Jewish population in neighborhoods surrounding the ghettos, knowing that a possibility of widespread outbreak inside would cause Germans to abandon the area and thus spare local Jews in the process.
A documentary about Dr. Eugene Lazowski entitled "A Private War" was made by a television producer Ryan Bank who followed Lazowski back to Poland and recorded testimonies of people whose families were saved by the fake epidemic.
- Andrzej Pityński, Short biography of Eugeniusz Łazowski. Museum of Stalowa Wola, 2007. (Polish) Retrieved August 3, 2012.
- Art Golab, Chicago's 'Schindler' who saved 8,000 Jews from the Holocaust Chicago Sun-Times, Dec 20, 2006. Retrieved from Internet Archive
- Paula Davenport, Media & Communication Resources, Life Preserver. Retrieved from Internet Archive.
- He duped Nazis, saved thousands. Source: The Sun-Times Company
- Fake Epidemic Saves a Village from Nazis. Holocaustforgotten.com (Retrieved from Internet Archive)
- 2 doctors used typhus to save thousands in wartime
- Paula Davenport, Media & Communication Resources, Southern Illinois University, Life Preserver