Friday, January 1, 2016

Dr. Eugene Lazowski: Hero of the Holocaust

Dr. Eugene Lazowski
Photo via Wikipedia
Dr. Eugene Lazowski was a Polish doctor and soldier during World War II. He was also a member of the Polish Underground Army and the Red Cross. He was one of the many heroes of the Holocaust whose humane deeds were conducted in secret and at great risk to themselves. He worked in a number of different ways to help the people in his neighborhood who were persecuted by the Nazis, all of which he could’ve been executed for.

Dr. Eugene Lazowski was born in Poland in 1913. He was in his twenties when he first came to Rozwadow, Poland. He was placed in a POW camp there. He bravely escaped the camp, narrowly avoiding a German guard.

Eugene had a home next to the ghetto in Rozwadow. In fact, his fence bordered the ghetto, which was filled with his fellow countrymen, many of them Jews. The ‘residents’ of the ghetto were sadly undernourished and some of them were very ill. Despite the fact that the Germans had declared it a crime to help these people, a crime that was punishable by death, Dr. Eugene Lazowski came up with a way to treat the sick in the Rozwadow ghetto. He would have them come to his fence, under cover of night, and tie a white cloth to it. When he saw the cloth, he would come out to the fence and treat whoever was there. He was able to supply his covert medical operation by cleverly falsifying his inventory.

Dr. Eugene Lazowski was given the opportunity to assist these people more, when his colleague, Dr. Stanislaw Matulewicz, made an amazing discovery. If he injected healthy patients with the same dead bacteria that was used to test for typhus, their tests would come back positive for the disease, with no harm done to them. The Germans were terrified of contracting the disease, so if a patient was found to have it, that would make them exempt from transfer to labor and concentration camps. There was one problem, however.

During the time of the Nazi occupation of Poland, Jews who were discovered to have deadly communicable diseases were killed and their homes burnt to the ground. If Dr. Eugene Lazowski and Dr. Matulewicz were going to help, they would only be able to use the bacteria on non-Jewish patients. They first tested it on a man who was home on leave from a labor camp. It worked. The test came back positive and the man did not have to return.

The doctors began slowly ‘spreading’ the disease throughout Rozwadow and the surrounding villages. They were very careful not to ‘infect’ Jews and they made sure that some of the ‘infected’ were referred to other doctors, who did not know of the deception, for testing. This way, all of the tests were not coming from them. That would have been too obvious.

Once there were enough cases of the disease, which is transmitted through the bite of infected lice, the Germans quarantined the area. No more people were taken out of the area and placed in camps. Dr. Eugene Lazowski was allowed to continue ‘treating’ the ‘epidemic’ and so, he was able to perpetuate it for nearly three years. During that time, the Germans only came to inspect the area once. Their fear of the disease prevented them from doing a thorough job of it and so the deception was not discovered.

Close to the end of World War II, a soldier whom he had secretly treated for a venereal disease warned Eugene Lazowski that the Gestapo was after him. The soldier told him that they were aware of him treating members of the resistance and had known for some time. Eugene later speculated that they had known about him, but had allowed him to live so that he may contain the ‘epidemic.’ So, in a way, Eugene had not only saved an estimated 8,000 people with the ‘epidemic,’ but he had also saved himself from execution.

When the doctor heard that the Gestapo was seeking him, he grabbed his wife and daughter and fled the city. He moved to the United States in 1958 and became a professor at the University of Illinois Medical Center. Dr. Eugene Lazowski passed away in Oregon in December of 2006.


Fake Epidemic Saves a Village from Nazis, retrieved 1/19/10,

He Duped Nazis, saved thousands, retrieved 1/19/10,

1 comment:

  1. Hello Shell Barclay, I am thinking about using this article for a source on a writing about Dr. Eugene Lazowski. Do you have any historical credentials that I could mention when writing about the author of the source?