When Jews caught “Syndrome K,” the Nazis wanted NOTHING to do with them


Jewish lives were saved in World War II due to a brilliant plan by Professor Giovanni Borremeo.

“Syndrome K was put on patient papers to indicate that the sick person wasn’t sick at all, but Jewish.

The lessons of my experience were that we have to act not for the sake of self-interest, but for principles.”
– Dr. Adriano Ossicini, inventor of Syndrome K.

During the Holocaust, many righteous gentiles performed acts of kindness that can never be repaid. They put their own lives at risk to save the lives of Jewish People. They did so because they felt it was right in a world that, at the time, was filled with unfathomable wrong.

One such story is of Professor Giovanni Borremeo, who was named a Righteous Among the Nations.  He organized this fictitious disease known as Syndrome K. At least 20 Jewish People were saved because of Syndrome K.

The House of Life

The Nazis invaded Italy in the Fall of 1943, and 8,500 Jews were deported, most of them to Auschwitz. But some Jews were saved because a group of doctors in Rome diagnosed them with Syndrome K.  This made up disease was invented by Dr. Adriano Ossicini. The hospital that housed these “sick” Jews was called Fatebenefratelli.  In 2016, it was honored by the Raul Wallenberg Foundation as a “House of Life.”

Syndrome K was called “dangerously infectious,” which led the Nazis to quickly flee.  They wanted nothing to do with these “contagious” Jews. The Jews were told to cough as the Nazis came to the hospital because the Nazis were afraid of the coughing. They were afraid to catch such an “awful disease.”

And that was the miracle that saved these Jewish lives.

The Biblical Angle

In the Jewish Oral Law called the Mishna, it says “One who destroys a life, it is as if he destroyed an entire world.  Anyone who saves a life, it is as if he saved an entire world.” Even saving the life of one Jew during the Holocaust is equal to saving an entire world. And that is why any person who saved even one Jew during the Holocaust deserves to be recognized as a hero.

Published: February 19, 2018
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