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Dr. Eugene Lazowski

(1913-2006)


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Dr. Eugene Lazowski, also known as "the Polish Schindler" is a hero of the Holocaust who risked his life saving thousands of Jews in Poland.  When the Germans invaded Poland Lazowski was a young man who had just finished medical school and was a soldier in the Polish army.  His focus was on medical care, and during much of the conflict he worked for the Polish Red Cross in the town of Rozwadow. As a Catholic, Lazowski risked death at the hands of the Nazis for helping his Jewish neighbors on multiple occasions. 

Lazowski provided medical care for his Jewish neighbors in Rozwadow.  The area had devised a system where if a Jewish resident needed medical assistance they would hang a rag on Lazowski's fence and then Lazowski would make a house-call to their residence under the cover of darkness.  Lazowski's medical oath required him to help people in need and his moral fiber compelled him to not think of race or religion when providing medical assistance.  In order to avoid having his Jewish neighbors and friends shipped off to Nazi concentration camps, with the assistance of fellow Polish medical professional Stanislav Matulewicz Lazowski began experimenting with bacteria injections.  The pair discovered that if you inject someone with a vaccine containing dead Epidemic Typhus, they will in fact test positive for the disease.  Although the patient would test positive, there would be no adverse effects of the illness and if questioned the patient could in theory fake the symptoms.  Because the Nazis knew that typhus was deadly they would not bother deporting anyone to a concentration camp who tested positive.  After injecting many Jews and non-Jews in the ghetto of Rozwadow and the surrounding area, the German government quickly became alarmed and ordered a quarantine of the area. 

The Nazi army was very health-conscious and did not deport any more people from that quarantine zone, fearing a widespread infection.  This quarantine and the injections saved over 8,000 people from deportation to the Nazi death camps, yet Eugene Lazowski remained humble about his role in the war until his death. 

After the war he continued to practice medicine in Poland but stayed quiet about his role in the war, fearing for his safety. In 1958 he moved to America and eventually settled in Chicago and had to undergo additional training to get his medical license in this country, after which continued to practice medicine.  In 1976 he became a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Illinois where he enjoyed many years of educating college students and published over one hundred research papers in Polish and English.  After retiring from medical practice in the late 1980's a documentary was filmed by producer Ryan Bank in the year 2000 about Lazowski's role in the war titled "A Private War".  The documentary included interviews with people who's families were saved by the fake epidemic and was well recieved critically by those who saw it but did not get a major release.  Eugene remained extremely quiet about the war until his death, and according to his daughter he had never told his wife about the fake epidemic.  His wife Maria died in 1996 and Lazowski passed away at age 92 on December 16, 2006 in Eugene, Oregon where he had been living with his daughter for 3 years due to his failing health.  Jews all over the world owe Mr. Lazowski their gratitude for his service to the Jewish community in Poland during the Holocaust. 


Sources: The Chicago Tribune, Wikipedia

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