Thursday, May 22, 2014

Escape from Sobibor

Richard Raskhe’s Escape from Sobibor is considered the go to work for this, the largest escape of prisoners from a Jewish concentration camp in Nazi Europe.

Sobibor was used during Operation Reinhard,  part of the Final Solution for the Jews in Poland.  It had a work camp, but existed primary to murder Jews on an industrial scale.  Along with its sister camps Belzec and Treblinka, nearly 3 million Jews were murdered in Operation Reinhard and its camps, nearly half of all Jews killed in the Shoah.

Raskhe reveals why the uprising at Sobibor  took place and was reasonably successful.  The Nazis put Jewish-Russian POWs into the camp just before the revolt, giving the camp resistance movement much need personnel with military experience.  It was these men who planned and led the revolt, and most of the Russian POWs successfully escaped to join the partisans or to regroup with the Red Army.

One flaw in the book is the lack extended information about Leon Feldhendler.  Raskhe acknowledges that Feldhendler was the ‘spiritual’ leader of the revolt, but we get little about Feldendler himself, who survived the escape but was killed by nationalistic Poles in 1945.  Is there not enough material about Feldhendler, or are there unsavory aspects to this man that Raskhe, or those survivors he interviewed, are unwilling to share?

The updated 2012 edition of this book  provides the latest information about survivors and research into Sobibor.  

Sadly, the camp site still has no major lasting monument.  It remains fields and pine forest and is an open mass grave strewn with bits of human remains.  In 2013, plans were introduced to protect and stabilize the site, erect a museum and monument to the over 250,000 Jews who were murdered in the camp.

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