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Third, Lazowski and Matulewicz strictly controlled the number of injections and the number of patients they infected, so that the cohort reflected the wellaccepted seasonal variation of epidemics. They increased their injection schedule during the winter, diminished the number of patients during the spring, and increased their numbers again in the fall (2). Fourth, Matulewicz and Lazowski knew the Germans would naturally suspect that a Polish physician might try to “game the system” by mislabeling blood samples. A sneaky physician could use the blood from one actual typhus patient and relabel it as the blood of many other suspected cases.

Because of the cross-reactivity of the Weil-Felix reaction, Lazowski and Matulewicz were confident that the patients whom they had infected would biologically test positive for typhus (created by an artificial method). Consequently, they always submitted blood that corresponded to patients who had been injected with Proteus OX-19—no sample switching required (2). Fifth, to further deflect suspicion, Lazowski and Matulewicz referred some of their patients (after injecting them with the Proteus OX-19 suspension) to other doctors who were not aware of the scheme. These doctors would “discover” the typhus on their own and report it separately (1). Finally, when Lazowski and Matulewicz found a patient who really did have typhus, they publicized the case as much as possible, but only if the patient was not Jewish (1, 2). Within a few months, the number of reported cases was sufficiently large to declare the area, which consisted of about a dozen villages, an “epidemic area” (7). The local German authorities began posting “Achtung, Fleckfieber!” (Warning, Typhus!) signs in Rozwadow and the surrounding villages (1). Deportation of workers to Germany from these quarantined villages was stopped, and German troops kept their distance.

Facing Fear with Defiance Before the war, Jews accounted for at least 10% of the area’s population. By the time Matulewicz and Lazowski began their fake epidemic in 1942, most of them had already been rounded up by the Germans (1). However, many Jews were still hiding in the countryside, including a large contingent that had fled Warsaw and other urban areas (1). The area-wide typhus quarantine thus protected them, as well as the villages’ residents. Villagers began to feel more relaxed, but the doctors—knowing there was no actual epidemic— lived in constant fear. As Lazowski later explained, “I didn’t know if I would be arrested and tortured by the Gestapo. So I carried a cyanide pill in case I was arrested” (1). Typhus warning sign

Reprinted from The Pharmacologist • March 2017

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2018 Special Compilation Issue of The Pharmacologist  

ASPET is pleased to present the second in a series of special editions of our quarterly news magazine, The Pharmacologist. This special com...

2018 Special Compilation Issue of The Pharmacologist  

ASPET is pleased to present the second in a series of special editions of our quarterly news magazine, The Pharmacologist. This special com...