Fake Epidemic Saves a Village from Nazis

Last Updated: Friday, September 15, 2017

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.

Dr. Lazowski was a soldier and doctor in the Polish Army, Polish Underground Army and Red Cross during World War II. Based on a medical discovery by his friend, Stanislaw Matulewicz, he created a fake epidemic of a dangerous infectious disease, Epidemic Typhus, in the town Rozwadow, as well as surrounding villages.

Injection of Bacteria Saves Lives

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.

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.

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.

Medical Help for Jews in the Ghetto

He lived next to a Jewish ghetto in Rozwadow; his back fence bordered the neighborhood. The Jews needed medical attention, so he arranged a system with them. Since it was punishable by death to help any Jewish person, he had to be secretive. If any Jews needed his help, they were to hang a white piece of cloth on his back fence, where he would help them in the safety of the night. Every night the white cloth would fly; lines formed waiting for his help -- they trusted him. He aided anyone who needed help, creating a system of faking his medicinal inventory to conceal his help of Jews.

Dr. Lazowski also faced death several other times in the war. He was working on a Polish Red Cross train, caring for injured soldiers. With the train stopped, he left to find food for the wounded, only to return to total chaos -- the Germans used the red crosses as bombing targets. The injured on their way home would never see their families again.

Dr. Lazowski also spent time in a prisoner-of-war camp prior to his arrival in Rozwadow. Determined to find a way out, he started to size up the security. A 3-meter wall with barbed wire surrounded the camp. He noticed a break in the barbed wire and took off. With a "thieves leap," whereby he took a running start and two steps on the face of the wall, he was over. Sure the guard heard him, he ran to a nearby horse and cart, whose driver was missing. Dr. Lazowski started to pet the horse and adjust the bridle, as if it were his own animal. The guard looked over and Dr. Lazowski simply smiled and said a kind word to him. The guard thought nothing of it, and Dr. Lazowski was off to safety.

Toward 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. 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. It sent chills down his spine. Dr. Lazowski left the town he personally saved for ever -- until now.