The Fake Disease That Saved a Group of Roman Jews from the Nazis

Aug. 25 2022

In his new documentary Syndrome K, narrated by the late actor Ray Liotta, the filmmaker Stephen Edwards tells the story of a creative, little-known, and ultimately successful attempt at Holocaust rescue. Stephen Silver writes:

[T]hree doctors at a hospital in Rome shielded a group of Jews from the Nazis in 1943 and 1944 by inventing a fake infectious disease called Syndrome K. The prospect of catching the disease kept the Nazis, who were occupying Rome following the fall of Mussolini, away from the hospital. The Jews there hung on until the Allies liberated the city in June of 1944.

Fatebenefratelli Hospital was located very close to the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. The three doctors were Vittorio Sacerdoti, Giovani Borromeo, and Adriano Ossicini. Sacerdoti was Jewish, while the other two were Catholic. Borremeo, who among other things protected the family of one of his Jewish mentors, is recognized as one of the Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial authority.

Jews were kept in hospital rooms designated as dangerously infectious. “The Nazis thought it was cancer or tuberculosis, and they fled like rabbits,” Sacerdoti told the BBC in 2004. The exact number of Jews saved, according to the film, is unknown, although various historical accounts have placed the number in the dozens.

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More about: Holocaust, Holocaust rescue, Italian Jewry, Righteous Among the Nations

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship