The Clever Reason Italian Doctors Faked A Disease During The Holocaust

From the earliest inception of Nazi eugenics in the 1930s to the very end of their reign in 1945, millions were murdered across Europe. Behind this apparatus was not only the German party and government leaders, but individuals and even companies throughout occupied Europe that out of either desperation or support for the regime aided in the genocide of their countrymen. Yet at the same time there were many who, in spite of nominal obligations to the Axis powers, chose to do everything they could to help the targets of their governments. 

In addition to figures such as Oskar Schindler, there was Albert Goering, brother of Luftwaffe head Hermann Goering, who used his last name in documents that spared hundreds of prospective Holocaust victims (via The Guardian). Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Lithuania, similarly issued Japanese transit visas that allowed thousands of refugees to head abroad (via Facing History). In Rome, an extremely bold plan was put into place by three Italian doctors of the Fatebenefratelli Hospital in order to protect their patients from the German occupiers.

A hospital fooled the Nazis

While it was definitely there, anti-Semitism had previously not been as strong in fascist Italy as it had been in Germany, and as an independent Axis power was not obligated to treat them as harshly either within the country or in the Italian zone of occupied France (via History). As the Allies advanced through southern Italy in 1943, Benito Mussolini was narrowly rescued from captivity. The German army took effective control over the north and made the Italian dictator a mere puppet for Berlin and their agenda. 

As the Jewish residents of Rome were now being collected by the Germans for deportation, Italian doctors who worked near the ghetto they lived in began recognizing symptoms of “Syndrome K” in several of them (via History Today). According to Quartz, the disease was in fact entirely fictitious, concocted by the staff so that their neighbors would be spared by the “quarantine” process (“K” being a reference to two Nazi officials whose names started with the letter). Fear of contracting the unknown affliction kept most Germans away as the entire hospital staff helped perpetuate the ruse and the “patients” pretended to be gravely ill. Adherence to the plan ultimately helped them and the hospital staff to survive the occupation (via Quartz).

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