The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: places/poland/wlodawa/wlodawa.007

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Life and Fall of Wlodowa: In Sobibor There is Nothing to See...
Summary: from the Yizkor book of Wlodawa
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project (CANADA)
Keywords: Wlodowa

Archive/File: places/poland/wlodawa/wlodawa.007
Last-modified: 1993/03/17

              The Life and Fall of Wlodawa and Surroundings
                   Translated by Shoshana Leszczynski
             (Transcribed by Ken McVay,

        [Please refer to Wlodawa.001 for transcription comments]


Mordechai Zanin

M. Zanin, the editor of the Newspaper "Die letzte Neies" -- Tel Aviv,
visited, after World War II, 100 destroyed communities. Then a Jew had
to have courage to endanger his life on a journey in the land of murder.
At the time hundreds of those being rescued in bunkers, woods and
returning from Russia were being killed on roads, villages and towns.
But to the assistance of Mr. Zanin stood a British passport which
enabled him to look like an English reporter. He said about this:

"The disguise of an English reporter in the conditions of post war
Poland when the government was communist and the people drunk with
hartred  of Jews robbing Jewish property -- opened before me the
hearts of all ranks of the population: farmers, citizens, intellectuals
and artists, wishing to relieve their conscience of a sin. I saw the
Jewish tragedy from the perspective of their conscience." Mr. Zanin
described everything he saw, heard, and experienced. But not like a
foreign reporter who contemplated at the Jewish tragedy merely as
reporting material. He was the first writer to report about the 100
destroyed and slaughtered communities. His descriptions in the newspaper
"Forwards" of New York evidently shook American Judaism.

"In Sobibor there is nothing to be seen..." in the chapter from his book
'u"ber Stein und Stock' which appeared in 1952 and describing the
destruction of the Jewish Wlodowa.

About 10 km from Wlodowa on the railway leading to the town Chelm is a
railway station, "Sobibor".

In the forest of Sobibor Jews of the district of Lublin and its
surrounding experienced the greatest disaster of all.

Now silent  reigns on the little station, the forest is shaking.
Behind the forest the Bug flows. Here is the Polish-Russian border. But
there is no fear you are in a border area. The few farmers disappear in
the depth of the forest. They return to their peaceful life.

I stop a farmer and propose to him that he bring me to the extermination
camp. The farmer looks at me and does not understand my intention. I
tell him: "Not for nothing!" I'll pay you well. The farmer lives quite
poorly: For payment he understands.

But he does not understand why I will pay him, as there is nothing to
see there. Really nothing to see there..."

-- I mean the place where Jews were killed -- I tell him.

-- Oh, Jews? Deep in the forest many Jews were burnt for 2 years, but
nothing remained to be seen...

We agreed that I will pay him for showing me the place where there is
nothing to be seen.

We cross the railway lines and enter into the depth of the forest by a
side road.

The farmer tells me that the Germans broke through the forest where they
brought the transports with Jews directly to the gas chambers.

There remained signs of this way of suffering.

After a walk of 20 minutes we reached a bare patch in the forest. At the
first moment it seemed as if here and there had been a village which was
burnt down and the people escaped.

On the whole ground you can see among the sporidic  weeds broken
pieces of bricks and red ashen -- earth.  Under the weeds the ground is
dug-up, into narrow and deep ditches.

The whole area of this forsaken land seemed to be smaller than the area
of Treblinka. On his  ground there were 5 barracks for the
SS-murderers and the Ukrainians. Two barracks for the Jews who were
taken from the transports for work (one for men and one for women) the
crematorium, and the gas chamber for 500 Jews.

4 barracks where the victims stripped off their clothes, the carpentry,
the tailor workshop -- a modern hell, founded on a scientific basis: All
the buildings in the camp, the houses and the crematorium were made of
stones taken from Jewish houses of Wlodowa. In this camp were murdered
Jews from Samosz, Rebishow, Chelm, Wlodowa, Lublin and Isbiza,
Chrasnopol and Libartov -- tens of Jewish communities.  Here were also
brought war prisoners from the Polish and Russian army, Jews from France
and Czechoslovakia and nearly from all countries of Europe. A people
evaporated with the smoke of the ovens.

Like in all the extermination camps also in Sobibor there passed a wild
wave of gold fever. Every piece of earth in the area from the station
was dug up by the population of the environment. The farmer tells about
it in simple words. He still believes that if one thorougly 
searched the place one would find treasures.

And around these treasures all his thinking was concentrated. All the
questions he asked pointed at this. There was a mement when I thought he
suspected that I came to undertake excavating works in order to unearth
the "treasures".

Have there been committees here to investigate the ground?" I asked.

-- As far as I know, no -- he answered carefully -- besides ordinary
people, nobody has come to search.

The spectacle of Sobibor offers the most awful spectacle of all the
destroyed cemetries  in Poland. Everyone dug exhumed and took what
he took and the rest -- forsaken.

The water of the river washed down the ashes of 800,000 Jews. Part of
the ashes were used as fertilizer for the forest, to make its trees
greener, its bushes softer.

Until now nobody thought of erecting a tombstone in memory of the dead
because it is Sobibor, because here only Jews were exterminated - only
800,000 Jews.

The river flows peacefully. The trains pass and don't stop at Sobibor.
This is an isolated and forgotten place.

The revolt in Treblinka (August 1943) which was written up in the modern
literature which appeared until now. When the Chelma camp yas  
destroyed (Jan. 17, 1945) the little remnants of the Jews rose up and
killed 2 German policemen. Only 29 of those Jews survived. But the
revolt of Sobibor seemed to be the greatest one. In Lublin I found a Jew
named Moshe Bornstein, one of those who survived the revolt of Sobibor.
He told me." In the Jewish working division there were 425 men and 175
women from different countries. Among them many Russian Jews, war
prisoners of the Sowjet  army. A Jew from Sitonor in the rank of
major together with Leibl Fladhendler, the son of the Rabbi from Solkow
were the instigators of the revolt. They organized 92 men each one with
another task. They intended to revolt at the end of June, but because of
a denunciation, the matter could not be executed.

A Jew from Berlin betrayed the preparations to the leaders of the camp,
and even handed over 3 who were shot.

Moshe Matiszewitz, the son of the smith Seinwel from Krasnokow and a Jew
from Turbini. For all that, they did not renounce their plan of revolt
even after the denunciation and though the Germans managed the camp in
such a way that it was impossible to talk. On the same July day the
labourers in the forest who were digging there, intended to kill their
Ukrainian guards and to escape.

Every Jew was watched by two men. One SS-men  and one Ukrainian. In
spite of the double guards the forest labourers decided to execute their
plans. The opportunity arrived when 3 Jew, Shlomo Podchalnik, Jossel
Kopp, from Matrobin and Sundel Honigmann from Koskowow went to fetch
water for the forest labourers. The three were led by one armed
Ukrainian. They attacked him and killed him. According to a prearranged
plan they were to give a sign for all the labourers to attack guards
with their axes and spades and then disperse into the forest. But the
sign did not come, instead, they  arrived a man on a horseback
announcing the murder of the Ukrainian. 13 Jews of the 40 were killed on
the spot. The rest were forced to crawl on their bellies, a distance of
4 km to the camp. There two by two, they were shot in front of all the
camp inhabitants.

The atmosphere in the camp became unbearable.

All the time new transports arrived with Jews from Poland and abroad. In
the day of the greatest summer heat the Jews of the transport arrived
half-dead and were moved directly to the crematorium. "Give us a drop of
water and kill us!" they prayed: "Kill us!" Moshe Bornstein continues
his story:

"Though, we, these who were unloading the wagons, were already used to
awful spectacles and death did not make any impression on us, the
tortures of half suffocated Jews, broke us dawn  again.

The "work" in the camp started at 10.00 o'clock at night when the trains
with the transports arrived at the station. The work had to be finished
until 2.00 o'clock in morning. This was the time restricted for the
poisonning >sic> of the Jews, transferring the luggage to the
store-houses and cleaning the wagons.

In order to avoid a break for breathing, the Germans organized dances
with music every Sunday.

As for every 425 men and only 175 women in the camp. the women were
forced to dance the whole day. Every man also had to dance if he wanted
to remain alive. For the dancing we had to come dressed up for the
dance. In the storehouses there were the most beautiful clothes,
especially from the transports from abroad. Therefore the women appeared
in elegant evening-dresses and the men in underwear of silk and elegant
suits with silk ties. Sunday was the day of rest for the SS-men and the
Ukrainians -- it was the day of suffering and torture for the Jews. A
terrible hell.

The dancing was the dance with death. A dance between thousand  of
dead people. And we the dancers knew that our fate would be the same as
theirs: gas chambers and crematorium.

The supervisor of the camp the Obersturmf"hrer Neumann whom the Jews
killed later, was 18 years old. But his cruelty did not know any limits.
He always invented the most awful tortures for his victims. One of his
inventions was the dancing on Sunday.

On the night of September 15/16 we were woken up: A transport of Jews
had arrived which had to be unloaded quickly and poisoned. Until sunrise
the whole transport had to be in the crematorium. This was the most
awful train we had ever seen. The nightmare train, the hell.

It consisted of 39 wagons. It came from Dambiza near Krakau. It had
already been two weeks on its way. Through the lattices of the windows a
terrible stench of corpses penetrated. When we opened we found piles of
naked corpses. In every wagon there were 300 men, women and children.
The most were already dead. And those who were still alive could still
stand on their feet asked immediately: "where are the gas chambers?"
They ran there with their last strength, -- quickly, quickly -- they ran
in order to die quickly. No one of them had asked for water. They only
had asked for the way to the gaschambers. We unoaded five wagons at a
time, because of the stench we were afraid to open more than 5 wagons at
a time. Out of thousands of Jews only some groups were sent to the
gaschambers, 4 or 5 times, 500 every time. The rest were thrown on
carriages and brought straight to the ovens.

The last transport caused the revolt. Execution of the uprising could no
longer wait. Now the plan had to be worked out in its details and find
the adapt  moment for action. Besides of the Russian major and
Leibl Fladhendler also.

Jossl Dominan, who was brought in a transport from France, Motel
Mednelboim from Samosz and Jossl Licht and Majorek from Grabowitz,
belonged to the organizing group.

The SS-men would take for themselves the best things from the
store-houses: Jewelry, clothes, lingerie, and shoes. The Jews working in
the storehouses had to report to their supervisors every time new good
items appeared. The organizers of the revolt took advantage of this
fact. The 14th of October was the suitable day. On the same morning a
group of SS-men left for Wlodowa. The sign was given to be ready at 4
o'clock in the afternoon. The supervisor of the storehouse at 3.30
because he had prepared for him exclusive woman's underwear. The
supervisor of the storehouse for clothes went to his SS-men and told him
that there was a precious cloth for a suit for him.

The head of the tailor's workshop told his SS-men to come to try on the
new suit. At the same time the SS-men were invited to the storehouses or
to the workshops. There a little group of labourers waited for them
armed with axes, hammers and other tools. When he had passed the
entrance the SS-men received a blow on his head. He was killed and
covered with rags.

Thus 33 SS-men were killed and their weapons captured.

Exactly at 4 o'clock the Russian major announced the slogan: "To the
gate". -- The group which had killed the Russian guards at the weapon
magazine left with guns.

With arms in their hands left also the labourers of the storehouses and

The Ukrainian guards guessed what had happened and opened fire. The Jews
answered the fire and ran to the gate. They killed the guard but did not
find on him the key of the gate.

The wicket was open and only one man could pass there. The Ukrainians
opend  fire on the masses that had concentrated there at the
wicket, and the dead blocked the way even more. At the same moment the
SS-men from Wlodowa returned and they began to shot  from the

The fire of the Ukrainians from the inside and the SS-men from the
outside caused death among the Jews. The Jewish Sowjet soldiers attached
 with their arms the Ukrainians trying to approach the masses. The
Jews who had passed the wicket fell over the SS-men and those withdrew
and escaped to save their skin..

But too late.

At the gate there were many dead. Also the fire of the Ukrainians
deminished  as tens of them fell.

From all the Jews in the camp only 150 escaped into the forest. The
Germans and the Ukrainians pursued them into the forest and the battle

The 150 escaped kept on offering sacrifices. Jossl Karp was killed after
the liberation of Poland. 

This fate was shared with him Leibl Fladleder. He fell in Lublin. The
place where the epic of Dante had been enacted, is now empty and

Only the forest witnessed the extermination of hundreds of thousands of
Jews. The forest witnessed the heroism of the last Jews and the forest
remained around the forsaken cemetry  of a people.

Perhaps when he  mankind will become better the term "Jew" will be
recognized and appriociated  by Non-Jews -- perhaps then someone
will raise and erect a tombstone for the slaughter of Sobibor and place
on it some flowers and he will light a candle on "Sadoshke" as it is
done according to the Polish ritual on the graves of saints and heroes -

On June 29, 1965 the Polish government together with the remnants of
Jewish refugees in Poland unveiled a memorial stone at the place where
the gas chamber of Sobibor had been.

A group of people from Wlodowa with Chaim Klieger at its head, placed
flowers on it.

To our regret there was not even one word on the momument to remind the
world that at this place hundreds of thousands of Jews from Poland and
abroad and also Jews from Wlodowa were murdered. As they were prosecuted
alive so one does not want to remind them, only forget: their tragic
death. -- Blessed be their memory -- God will revenge their blood.

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