The imaginary disease – how Italian doctors saved Jews from the Nazis | DW Documentary

The imaginary disease – how Italian doctors saved Jews from the Nazis | DW Documentary

“Syndrome K” might be the only deadly disease that ever saved lives. Despite the fact that it never really existed.

This film tells the story of three courageous Roman Catholic doctors who saved Jewish lives at a hospital in Rome by means of a convincing lie: they told the Nazis their patients were infected with a highly fatal and contagious disease called Syndrome K.

This incredible story takes place during the Nazi occupation of Rome in October 1943. As Jewish people were being deported to Auschwitz, some Jews sought refuge in the Fatebenefratelli hospital. There, the doctors invented a disease to protect them. Advising their patients to fake symptoms, including coughing, when Nazi officers arrived to carry out inspections, these doctors declared the ward far too contagious for the soldiers to enter. The ruse worked.

Jewish survivors and one of the Italian doctors who carried out the plan were interviewed for this film. In combination with archival footage, these accounts make for a chilling, heroic WWII story.

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