Eugeniusz Łazowski, Poland
December 16, 2006 (aged 92–93)|
Eugene, Oregon, United States
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 Polish Jews during World War II 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.
World War II
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, 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.
In 1958, Lazowski emigrated to the United States on a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation and in 1976 became professor of pediatrics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He wrote a memoir entitled Prywatna wojna (My Private War) reprinted several times, as well as over a hundred scientific dissertations.
The fake typhus epidemic
After Lazowski's friend Dr Stanisław Matulewicz discovered that by injecting a healthy person with a vaccine of dead 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.
Germans were terrified of the disease because it was highly contagious. Those infected with typhus were not sent to Nazi 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, 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.
In popular culture
- 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". Archived from the original on November 11, 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-03.. Museum of Stalowa Wola, 2007. (in Polish) Retrieved August 3, 2012.
- Art Golab, "Chicago's 'Schindler' who saved 8,000 Jews from the Holocaust". Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved 2017-10-05. Chicago Sun-Times, Dec 20, 2006.
- Paula Davenport, Media & Communication Resources, "Life Preserver". Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved 2012-05-30..
- He duped Nazis, saved thousands. Source: The Sun-Times Company
- Fake Epidemic Saves a Village from Nazis at the Wayback Machine (archived January 22, 2009). Holocaustforgotten.com
- 2 doctors used typhus to save thousands in wartime
- Paula Davenport, Media & Communication Resources, Southern Illinois University, Life Preserver