Weigl Rudolf Stefan

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Story of Rescue - Weigl Rudolf Stefan

Rudolf Stefan Weigl was born in Przerów in Moravia. After the death of his father, his stepfather was Józef Trojnar, a gymnasium professor in Jasło and Stryj. Thanks to that, Rudolf not only spoke Polish, but also maintained Polish culture and customs. In 1907, he graduated from natural science studies at the Lvov University, where he became an assistant to professor Nasbaum-Hilarowicz, an excellent scientist and pedagogue.

As early as during World War I, Professor Weigl invented the world's first effective vaccine against spotted fever. He continued his research activity concerning the vaccine at the Institute of General Biology in the Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov, later referred to as the Weigl Institute. He was a head of the Institute both during the Soviet occupation of Lvov and after the capture of the city by the Germans. He kept his position in spite of the fact, that he refused to sign the Reichslist. He was not removed because the vaccine produced by the Institute was used, as the most effective one, for the needs of the Wehrmacht.

Soon, the Professor realized that employment in the Institute was an opportunity of survival for many of those in danger. An employee's identity card was a good means of protection from accidental arresting.The Gestapo avoided contact with those from whom they could become infected with typhus.

In consideration of that, Professor Weigl began to employ in the Institute those who were in danger – primarily the members of the underground movement and intellectualists. In this way, Professor Weigl also helped to protect the Jews, employing them as feeders of lice. He saved, as it is estimated today, about 5 thousand people from Lvov academic circles (including Jewish scientists, among others, Ludwik Fleck and the Meisls), as well as members of the underground movement.

The vaccine produced in the Institute, by way of underground connections, reached civilians, partisans, the Lvov and Warsaw Ghettos as well as concentration camps and Gestapo prisons. Professor Weigl wanted also to save the life of a Jewish scientist, a renowned Cracow bacteriologist, Professor Filip Eisenberg. He offered him employment in the Institute. Eisenberg, however, preferred to hide in Cracow. He did not manage to survive the war.

After the end of the war, Professor Weigl settled down in Cracow and continued his scientific research at the Jagiellonian University and later -until his retirement in 1995 -at the university in Poznań. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize twice, for the first time in 1942, but his nomination was blocked by the Germans in vengeance for his refusal to sign the Reichslist. The second nomination was in 1948 but awarding him was prevented by Communist authorities. For many years, Professor Rudolf Weigl was also falsely accused by some of his colleagues of collaboration with the Germans.


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