Syndrome K: Ray Liotta narrates Stephen Edwards documentary about three doctors whose fabricated ‘deadly disease’ saved Jewish lives

The best voiceover in movie history is Ray Liotta’s 16-minute opener to Goodfellas. Sober, serious, almost reassuring, it draws the viewer into a world of brute force, bloodshed and butchery.

So it was obvious that Liotta, who died earlier this year, would be the first choice as a narrator for Holocaust by Stephen Edwards documentary about the bravery of three Italian doctors who saved Jewish lives by deceiving the Nazis about a completely invented highly contagious disease, “syndrome K”.

Edwards knew Liotta personally through their daughters who attended the same school. He pitched the idea to the actor and “two weeks later he’s in my studio.”

Liotta, pro that he was, navigated with ease through twisted Italian names and locations, finishing the job in three hours. “He walked in, and it’s not an easy gig: it’s Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Adriano Ossicini, Giovanni Borromeo, Vittorio Sacerdoti, all the Roman names, plus all the German names, all that vocabulary,” he said. Edwards. “And he was such a fun guy to work with, super funny, top pro, layman, lots of F-bombs, we were just laughing, having fun…we were so sorry to lose the guy. ”

K-syndrome takes place at the end of 1943. After the fall of Mussolini, Nazi troops rush to occupy Rome. On October 16, the mass deportation of Roman Jews to concentration camps began. Pope Pius XII – not only the spiritual head of the Catholic Church but also the temporal head of Vatican City, a sovereign state within the city limits of Rome – took no action, filed no protest, remained silent.

In the shadow of the Vatican, however, the Fatebenefratelli Hospital began to admit fleeing Jews as patients. Three doctors – Giovanni Borromeo, Adriano Ossicini and a Jewish doctor working undercover as a Catholic, Vittorio Sacerdoti – have concocted an elaborate ruse: a highly contagious and incurable virulent disease, “Syndrome K” (the “K” serving as the language Of wood). a nod to the head of the general Nazi army for Italy, Kesselring, as well as to the SS colonel of Rome, Kapler). The three collected realistic laboratory records, records, case histories and other important, official-looking evidence of this “highly aggressive and neurologically degenerative” disease. The “patients” of Ward K were instructed to say nothing but to cough loudly when the Nazi inspectors arrived. The end result was that, as the doctors described it, the SS agents ran in fear while the Nazi doctor summoned to check on the cases was “completely terrorized”.

The hospital also served as a radio relay point for vital transmissions to the Allies. With SS officials regularly frequenting the halls and offices and carrying out surprise searches, there were a number of close calls, but neither the radio transmitters nor the fake patients were ever discovered.

When the The allies arrived nine months later, 80% of the Jewish population of Rome had been saved, not only thanks to the ingenuity and the audacity of the doctors of Fatebenefratelli, but also thanks to the generosity and the courage of the Catholic community of Rome which did not waited for the Pope’s approval to save their human beings. A total of 4,500 Roman Jews went into hiding when the Nazis arrived. They hid in convents, churches, monasteries and other Vatican properties, and almost all of them survived.

Director Stephen Edwards was surprised the story was never told and attributes it to the very real possibility that officials kept it in a historical tone as a precaution against future retaliation.

The last surviving doctor of the three, Dr. Adriano Ossicini, testifies in the film, telling his story. “Life is good if you live it with honesty and bravery. These are core values. Bravery always wins.

And for Ray Liotta, who didn’t survive to see his latest voiceover hit the big screen, the opportunity to tell a true story where bloodshed and butchery meet in kindness and bravery must have been a delicious conclusion. of the fictional brutality he recounted so long ago.

Syndrome K: Ray Liotta narrates Stephen Edwards documentary about three doctors whose fabricated ‘deadly disease’ saved Jewish lives