Bacterial marketing: the other Oskar Schindler
October 19, 2007 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Upon the Nazi invasion of Poland, pediatrician Eugeniusz Łazowski and his friend Stanisław Matulewicz fabricated a fake typhus epidemic to save Polish Jews from the Nazis. Knowing that typhus-infected Jews would be summarily executed, non-Jews were injected with the harmless Proteus OX19, which would generate false positives for typhus.

Anglicising his name to "Eugene Lazowski", the doctor moved to the United States after the war. He lived and worked in Chicago from 1958, and passed away in late 2006 at the vernerable age of 92, in Eugene (!), Oregon.

Oddly little is written about Lazowski and Matulewicz on the web; although apparently there has been work on a documentary titled "A Private War" by a filmmaker named Ryan Bank.

So feel free to add supporting links if you are aware of any.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (23 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
"venerable", even.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:21 PM on October 19, 2007


Excellent post.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:32 PM on October 19, 2007


"An epidemic that saves lives": a great article on this which is, sadly, only in Spanish. [Robot English]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:39 PM on October 19, 2007


This is interesting. But couldn't it have backfired pretty badly--if the Nazis had freaked out and just nuked the village from orbit, killing not just the Jews but the Poles as well?
posted by nasreddin at 6:47 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


But couldn't it have backfired pretty badly--if the Nazis had freaked out and just nuked the village from orbit, killing not just the Jews but the Poles as well?

Probably not, seeing as how the Nazis didn't have nukes.
posted by Poolio at 6:51 PM on October 19, 2007


Probably not, seeing as how the Nazis didn't have nukes.
Or spacegoing technology, for that matter. But I think nasreddin might have been speaking metaphorically.
posted by spacewrench at 6:55 PM on October 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


They probably could have bombed the heck out of it with regular bombs, but what justification was there for that expense? The villagers weren't actively trying to infect anyone else. Much more economical to just keep them shut off, and maybe they'd just all die of it on their own, no?

Anyway, awesome post, thank you. These stories need to be told more often. It makes me wonder what kind of stories will come out years from now, of the secret heroes of our day, and what they've done. Which makes me want to find a way to be one. Which, all told, is a good thing, I think.
posted by po at 6:55 PM on October 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


"People said I'm a hero. I just found an opportunity to do something good," said Dr. Lazowski, 90

To the media that report that everyone who crawled out of a bad to worse situation to save his or her own ass is a hero, this is what a hero really fucking looks like.
posted by psmealey at 6:56 PM on October 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


po: "[This] makes me wonder what kind of stories will come out years from now, of the secret heroes of our day, and what they've done. Which makes me want to find a way to be one. Which, all told, is a good thing, I think."

Absolutely. This bears repeating.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:01 PM on October 19, 2007 [5 favorites]


If the Nazis had nukes, we'd still be in a world of hurt. Still.
posted by Balisong at 7:34 PM on October 19, 2007


Or spacegoing technology, for that matter.

Well to be fair, they were a hell of a lot closer to having it than anyone else at the time, what with the V-2's and all.
posted by pjern at 7:41 PM on October 19, 2007


God dammit, yeah. Growing up in suburban The Hague to English and Dutch parents, my folks could tell you stories.

If we're talking V-2 (A4), let's not forget the A9, shall we.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:59 PM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Space Nazis!!!!!!!!!
ohh i hate space nazis.....


Though some people actually believe!

Great post btw, they are truely noble men amongst the savages of WW2.
posted by ItsaMario at 8:00 PM on October 19, 2007


Incredible story. I want to see that movie.
posted by Soliloquy at 8:25 PM on October 19, 2007


love these guys! thanks!
posted by amberglow at 8:29 PM on October 19, 2007


[nukes] Or spacegoing technology, for that matter. But I think nasreddin might have been speaking metaphorically.

They were working on both, though.
posted by delmoi at 9:11 PM on October 19, 2007


Look, let me explain something. I'm not Mr. ?azowski. You're Mr. ?azowski. I'm the Cz?owiek. So that's what you call me. That or His Cz?owiekness... Cz?owieker... or El Cz?owiekrino, if, you know, you're not into the whole brevity thing...
OW! Fucking fascists!

Nifty post.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:25 PM on October 19, 2007


That's a totally cool story. I wish I had known about it and gotten to meet Dr. Lazowski when I lived in Eugene. That's the sort of story that makes me hope to have the balls to do the right thing every day. Inspirational to a fault. Thanks.
posted by afflatus at 9:31 PM on October 19, 2007


Goddamn, that's a good story. I'm a very cynical person, but this post gave me hope that there might be one or two Dr. ?azowskis in Iraq right now.

I hope to do god there are...
posted by Kronoss at 10:07 PM on October 19, 2007


but this post gave me hope that there might be one or two Dr. ?azowskis in Iraq right now.
There are. There almost always are. By now, other Iraqis might have already either killed them, or caused them to flee--helping many others to do so--millions have so far.

(The ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods in Baghdad is almost totally finished, from what i've read. Shias and Sunnis who needed to be helped have almost all either moved to safer areas or been killed or left the country altogether)
posted by amberglow at 10:14 AM on October 20, 2007


Man. That is ridiculously awesome. Good to know that despite all the douchebaggery that dominates the perception of a cynic, there are some genuinely kickass people around.
posted by Phire at 3:09 PM on October 20, 2007


Great post. What a moving story. Wonderful to know, Schindler saved 1200 lives, Eugene Lazowski saved 8000. Both awesome human beings.
posted by nickyskye at 8:56 PM on October 20, 2007


Wow. Desperate times, desperate measures. What an amazing story.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:28 AM on October 21, 2007


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