The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/aktion.reinhard/sobibor/sobibor.02

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Sobibor & the Jewish revolt
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Sobibor,Pechersky,Sasha

Archive/File: holocaust/poland/reinhard/sobibor sobibor.02
Last-modified: 1995/08/18

"It was at Sobibor that one of the most daring revolts flared, which again
alerted the Nazis to the enormous danger the Jews represented once they had
secured arms. Hoess of Auschwitz, in his prison autobiography, wrote that
the escape and its cost to the Nazis left a trail of shame. `The Jews,' he
noted, `were able by force to achieve a major breakout during which almost
all the guard personnel were wiped out.' Himmler was so outraged by the
`humiliation' that he ordered Sobibor to be destroyed and all evidence of
its activity erased.<22>

The revolt was organized by a Jewish prisoner, Alexander (Sasha)
Pechersky, a Red Army officer captured by the Nazis in October 1941 and
shunted from Minsk to several camps until September 1943, when he finally
landed in Sobibor. His ingenuity was demonstrated when an official call
came for carpenters. Pechersky, who was no more a carpenter than Szmuluwski
at Auschwitz was a roofer, wolunteered and was plucked from the death line.
It was not long before he rose to leadership in the camp underground and
became the organizer of a major attempt at mass escape. He warned his
comrades that there was little to be gained by waiting for the vaporous
signals that might never come from the Polish Partisans in the forest. `We
are not allowed to give up life,' he said. `We must live in order to take
our revenge....No one can do our work for us.'

Pechersky's realism became the credo of those who joined him in the revolt
set for October 14.  Each conspirator was given a station -- the tailor
shop or the storehouse, the cabinet makers' quarters of the armory.  Each
methodically disposed of an unsuspecting Nazi guard or guards by stabbing,
strangling, or smashing skulls.  Thirty-eight Germans and Ukrainians were
killed and many more wounded.  The SS lost ten of its top officers.  The
prisoners donned the uniforms of the slain and Pechersky gave the signal
for the dash to the fence.  The sudden attack and the disguise of the
uniforms only temporarily delayed the counter-attack.  Fleeing prisoners
were strafed by machine gun fire from the watch towers.  Nevertheless,
about six hundred, including many women, broke out across the various
barriers to the forest.  The Nazis mounted a search-and-destroy mission,
in the course of which all but about sixty were caught and killed. When the
story broke in the international press, Himmler ordered the camp inmates to
be destroyed and, as noted, leveled Sobibor to the ground. Even the geese
were killed.

More than twenty years passed before a dozen of the Sobibor Nazis and their
Ukrainian collaborators were brought to trial, some in the Soviet Union in
1965, the others in Germany in 1966. Pechersky, who had devoted two decades
of his post-Holocaust life to hunting them down, was a chief prosecution
witness. Ten of the accused were found guilty and hanged. The others, for
whom no witnesses could be located to testify, received life sentences,
soon commuted or suspended. A German writer, Robert Neuman, computed that
the average sentence was about ten minutes of prison time for each murdered
victim." (Sachar, 42-43)

<22> Hoess, Rudolf. Commandant of Auschwitz. p. 45

                              Work Cited

Sachar, Abram L. The Redemption of the Unwanted. New York: St.
Martin's/Marek, 1983.  

For those interested in learning more about the escape, we recommend the
following as an excellent starting point:

Rashke, Richard. Escape From Sobibor (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1982)

Rashke provides text for the report sent by the Security Police to Berlin on
October 15, 1943:

"On October 14, 1943, at about 5:00 P.M., a revot of Jews in the SS camp
Sobibor, twenty-five miles north of Chelm. They overpowered the guards,
seized the armory, and, after an exchange of shots with the camp garrison,
fled in unknown directions. Nine SS men murdered, one SS man missing, two
foreign guards shot to death.

Approximately 300 Jews escaped. They remainder were shot to death or are now
in camp. Military police and armed forces were notified immediately and took
over security of the camp at about 1:00 A.M. The area south and southwest of
Sobibor is now being searched by police and armed forces."

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