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An Invented Disease Saved Jews During Holocaust

Fatebenefratelli Hospital in Rome (Photo: flickr/denisgiles)

Many Advocates and Allies we tell you about are individual Gentiles whose bravery and sacrifice saved Jewish lives from certain death during the Holocaust. But today's story of bravery honors an entire hospital staff. Haaretz's Anna Momigliano tells the story of a hospital in Rome that invented a fake disease as an excuse to shelter - and save - dozens of Jews from the Nazis:

Between September 1943 and June 1944, coinciding with the Nazi occupation of the city, Rome was struck by a mysterious epidemic. A previously unknown and highly contagious disease, the “K syndrome,” forced a local hospital to isolate dozens of infected patients in a special wing, completely inaccessible to outsiders – especially German soldiers.

If you never heard of the “K syndrome,” that’s because it’s not a real disease. In fact, it was a fictitious illness completely made up by the Fatebenefratelli hospital in order to keep dozens of Roman Jews safe from the Nazis who were hunting them down (the letter “K” was a reference to Albert Kesselring, the German officer in charge of the Italian capital).

Adriano Ossicini, back then a young doctor, came up with the idea and the other staff played along. With this creative trick they saved at least 40 lives. More than a thousand Roman Jews were arrested and deported to death camps – only a handful of them survived...

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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