Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Heritage Civilization and the Jews
About the Series Historical Timeline Resources Lesson Plans Episodes
sidecurve1 Out of the Ashes
Interactive Presentation
Interactive Atlas
Historical Documents
Video Resources
Revolt at Sobibor Death Camp

Sobibor, an extermination camp near Lublin, was a place of death for more than 250,000 Jews. On October 14, 1943, Jewish prisoners staged a revolt, as described in these excerpts from a survivor's account. 48 guards were killed and 150 inmates escaped into the forest.








At precisely 4:00 PM the stage was set. Now everything depended on the nerve of the attackers, their faith in themselves, and a lot of luck. Since Commandant SS Reichleitner was absent, Untersturmführer Niemann was the acting commandant. . . .

A few minutes earlier than appointed, Niemann rode up on his beautiful white horse [and] entered the tailor shop. Mundek the tailor was ready, holding the uniform. At tailors have done for ages, Mundek patted and turned Niemann at his will. Finally he told him to stand still while he marked the alterations with crayon. Then a terrible blow fell from behind. The Nazi dropped like a fallen tree, his head split. Lerner stood for a second with the bloody ax in his hand, then struck again. Unexpectedly, the cap maker standing by broke down and began to stab the dead body hysterically with his scissors, calling out the names of his wife and children killed in Sobibor. . . .

Now the news spread like wildfire. While standing in formation, I noticed religious Jews returning to the barracks to get the prayer shawls they had hidden. They assembled near the kitchen, saying Kaddish, the prayer for the dead -- for themselves. Believing that all was in the hands of Divine Providence, they resisted their oppressors by openly sanctifying God's commandments.

An elderly tailor twisted his fingers in desperation and walked back and forth, lamenting to himself, "What do we need this for? We could live for a few weeks more. Now this will be the end."

. . . It was obvious that [the sick and weak] had decided to stay: they appeared resigned to their fate. Other were saying good-bye to their friends. . . .

The mass of prisoners, coming from most of the nations of Europe and speaking diverse languages, now understood. From the assembled Jews, all of a sudden, a single, strange and impatient voice was heard. "FORWARD! HURRAH! HURRAH!" It was quickly picked up, and, in a flash, the entire camp answered the call to defiance. . . .