The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/aktion.reinhard/sobibor/ap.101593

Archive/File: holocaust/poland/reinhard/sobibor ap.101593
Last-Modified: 1994/07/19

Survivors Mourn 250,000 Jews killed in Nazi Death Camp

SOBIBOR, oct 15 (AP) - Fifty years after inmates of the Nazi
death camp in Sobibor escaped in a prisoner revolt, the few
remaining survivors of the camp honored some 250,000 Jews
murdered in its gas chambers.

"Now comes a moment for which I waited many years," Thomas
"Toivi" Blatt, 66, said through tears Thursday as he and five
other survivors unveiled metal tablets recalling the deaths in
five languages.

It was a culmination of 30 years' effort by Blatt, founder and
chairman of the Holocaust Sites Preservation Committee, to
replace Communist-era memorials that list Soviet prisoners as the
camp's main victims. Blatt, who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif.,
said they only "casually" mentioned the Jews killed.

The Nazis brought thousands of Jews from all over Europe to this
small town a few miles (kilometers) from Poland's eastern border
between April 1942 and October 1943. Most were killed within
hours of arriving.

Then on Oct. 14, 1943, some 300 inmates staged a revolt led by
Sasha Pechursky, a Russian Jew. They killed 23 German officers
and  guards.

Although only 52 inmates survived the escape, it is considered
the largest and most successful prisoner0revolt in a Nazi death
camp during World War II. The Germans dismantled the death camp
after the escape.

"We had nothing to lose. We had our death sentences in our
pockets," said former inmate Esther Raab, 71, who lives in
Vineland, New Jersey. Except for one brother, her entire family
died in the Sobibor camp.

On Thursday, a rabbi and a Polish army priest prayed under sunny
skies as a huge torch burned in a wooded area where the camp once
stood. Wreaths of white, violet and red flowers were laid at the
mound of ashes of the murdered.

Several hundred Poles and Jews attended the three-hour ceremony.
Only 14 prisoners who survived the escape are still alive, and
nearly all were too old to make the trip to Thursday's ceremony.

President Lech Walesa and Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka sent
letters praising the moral victory of the Sobibor insurgents,
saying they chose death in a dignified struggle instead of by
poison gas. The Israeli, U.S. and German embassies sent
representatives to the ceremony.

The uprising was portrayed on film in "Escape from Sobibor" made
by CBS-TV of the United States in the 1980s with Blatt and Raab
as consultants.

At the ceremony, Raab presented Jan Marcyniuk, 67, whose family
hid Raab, her brother and two other escapees for 14 months after
the uprising. "They are my family," Raab said.

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