In 2004, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Rome from Nazi control, a retired Italian physician, Dr. Vittorio Sacerdoti revealed how his simple yet ingenious plan helped save the lives of 45 Roman Jews including his own 10-year-old cousin.
Nazis made to look like fools by Italian doctor
The Holocaust wasn't relegated to Western Europe, the Nazis and their "final solution" also made their way across the globe and down into the Mediterranean, right into the heart of Rome. When Dr. Sacerdoti realized that the Nazis were about to start rounding up people from the Jewish ghetto he lived in (the one that he still lives in) he started admitting as many of his fellow countrymen into the hospital he worked in and diagnosing them with a "dangerous disease", thus "Syndrome K" was born.
Dr. Sacerdoti was only 28 years old at the time but he knew that if he did nothing more innocent lives would be taken by the Nazi scourge. As other Jewish people were being taken out of their homes, Sacerdoti and the rest of the hospital staff would admit anyone in danger from the Nazis and fill out their medical forms stating that they were suffering from the mysterious Syndrome K. The Nazi patrols assumed that this diagnoses were linked to cancer or tuberculosis (or some other contagious disease) and ran out of the hospital as fast as they could, fearful of contracting the deadly contagion. Little did they know that they were having the wool pulled over their eyes by the courageous hospital staff.
Syndrome K was named after German commander Kesselring
The small Fatebenefratelli Hospital was over 400 years old and was situated on a small island in the middle of the River Tiber which helped to separate their "deadly contagious" patients from the rest of the general population, and from the reach of Nazi patrols. When the Nazis would actually step foot in the hospital, staff would make the rounds telling their patients that they "have to cough and keep coughing" while the patrols made their way through the corridors.
Saving the lives of "only 45" people might not seem that large a feat in the grand scheme of things, but standing up to the Nazi occupation and making them look like terrified idiots was worth putting his own life at risk. Dr. Vittorio Sacerdoti, we salute you.