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“Syndrome K” Is A Fascinating Journey Through The History Of A Fake Disease That Saved Real Lives

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The true story of Italian doctors in Rome who rescued Jews during the Holocaust through a horrific, contagious disease that wasn’t real.

It might just be the only disease to have ever actually saved lives. And it didn’t really exist.

Syndrome K is a feature documentary in production that tells the story of three courageous Roman Catholic doctors who saved Jews by convincing the Nazis that these Jews were infected with a highly deadly and contagious disease that the doctors called Syndrome K.

After Mussolini was removed, and Italy signed an Armistice with the Allies, the Nazis became infuriated, and they occupied Rome. The occupying Nazis deported over 1,000 Jews to Auschwitz from the Jewish Ghetto in Rome in October 1943 and most never returned. Many Jews sought refuge in Fatebenefratelli hospital where the three doctors invented the disease to protect them.

A Syndrome K Unit in 1944.

Dr. Ossicini was interviewed for this film as were survivors. The footage amassed by the filmmaker and from archives is chilling and the heroism is pronounced. 

It is a story that needs to be told.

“Syndrome K” can be seen via my affiliate link at Amazon. It can also be rented or purchased on Apple TV, Hoopla, and other online streaming services.

“My favorite documentaries are those that speak about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. When I happened on the story of Syndrome K, I could scarcely believe it had remained untold for so many years. I began researching the story. The more I learned about the three heroic doctors who successfully fooled Nazis into believing that their quarantined Jewish patients had a rare and dangerous disease, the more I understood. 

They did what they did without question and without pause. They knew the risk, but gave it no second thought. This is how they were. To these three men, taking a stand against the closest thing there ever was too pure evil, this was necessary. It was obvious. I began to realize that the story had never been told partly because the doctors themselves did not desire the fanfare or the attention. It’s rare to encounter this sensibility.  I had never come across it before as a filmmaker.  

It took me some time to ascertain that Dr. Ossicini, the inventor of “Syndrome K” was alive, well into his 90’s, and still living in Rome. I immediately booked a flight and interviewed him. He introduced me to colleagues and from there, I met several survivors. The more I learned, the more I affirmed that this was an astonishing story that needed to be told – and needed to be shared with (hopefully) a wide audience. 

I said earlier that my favorite documentaries are those that speak about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Well, these three doctors and their self-effacing style and matter-of-fact heroism were anything but ordinary. These were extraordinary men.  And what they did was beyond extraordinary. I feel privileged to make this film and share it.

Stephen Edwards
(Documentary Filmmaker)
SyndromeK.com

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