Sobibor was an extermination camp set up under Operation Reinhard to facilitate the extermination of Jews and other ethnic groups in World War II. Located in the Lubin district of Poland near the Belarussian border, Sobibor was responsible for the deaths of over 250,000 people, mostly Jews.

Sobibor was different to labour and transit camps in that its sole purpose was to kill. This was facilitated by a 200 horsepower engine that produced the carbon monoxide gas for the three gas chambers at the camp. These chambers could hold upwards of 160 prisoners at a time. The dead were initally buried in a deep trench, but after the addition of another three gas chambers to the camp, the bodies became so numerous that Heinrich Himmler ordered the bodies to be burned.

In 1943 the camp was converted into a concentration camp. This prompted an uprising amongst the imprisoned Jewish workers in the camp and a resistance was born.

The resistance was led by Leon Feldhendler and Alexander Pechersky. They devised an escape plan, knowing that many would die as result, the logic being that it's better to die having tasted freedom than to die in vain.

Around three hundred prisoners managed to overpower the SS officers and escape the initial confines of the camp. However many were killed in the minefields that surrounded the camp. Others were hunted down in the Polish countryside and murdered by the SS. Polish farmers who harboured escapees were also killed. Of the initial 300 that originally escaped, only 50 survived, as immortalized in the 1987 Jack Gold film "Escape From Sobibor". This was the largest escape attempt from any of the camps built during World War II.

After the escape, Himmler ordered the camp to be destroyed. After the war, a stone chimney monument and a poignant statue of a parent and child were erected to honour the people who perished there at the hands of the Nazis. A large mound of ash has also been reserved to act as a stark reminder to people like Matt Giwer and other prominent modern day anti-semites of the atrocities that took place there.

A quote from Kalmen Wewryk, Sobibor survivor:
"There were too many Jewish children to be "processed" rapidly so they were in a long, steadily shrinking circular line from morning to night. Such beautiful children, gorgeous little blonde girls with pigtails, decently dressed. These poor unfortunates were well-fed, with pretty, round little faces. Their parents must have loved them so, must have lavished such care on them, and now ... Many of them carried small suitcases or bags. It was pitiful, so sad! The SS men were watching over them. Some of the kids were crying. They probably understood. The soil was sandy, so some children made circles in the sand and they played with pebbles and branches. After all, they were only children. Some children's eyes were full of fear - they were wide-eyed with fear. It was a day straight out of hell! And every minute less and less of them, less and less. The line got shorter and shorter. And the children became smoke in those accursed skies ..."

sources: us-israel.org, nikzor.org, auschwitz.dk/Sorbibor.htm
map:http://holocaust-info.dk/sobibor/imgs_sobibor/map.htm


thbz says: There is also a very remarkable documentary film by C. Lanzman: "Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 pm"

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