Jewish Prisoner Uprisings
in The Treblinka And Sobibor
Extermination Camps

Part 5


(Note: The materials in this section were transcribed by Mr. Kenneth McVay of Vancouver, Canada. Mr. McVay's award-winning Nizkor Project is one of the largest collections of Holocaust-related materials in the world.—Ben Austin

CAMPS - 4


                       THE NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS 
 
   Structure and Aims * The Image of the Prisoner The Jews in the Camps 
 
 PROCEEDINGS OF THE FOURTH YAD VASHEM INTERNATIONAL HISTORICAL CONFERENCE 
                         Jerusalem, January 1980 
                                YAD VASHEM 
                              JERUSALEM 1984 
 
                             SEVENTH SESSION 
                           Chairman: Bela Vago 
 
JEWISH PRISONER UPRISINGS IN THE TREBLINKA AND SOBIBOR EXTERMINATION CAMPS 
 
YITZHAK ARAD 
 
Liquidation of the Camp (CONT)
 


Underground Organization and Preparations for Revolt 
 
     From the second half of July until the middle of August 1943, an 
underground group was formed in the camp under the leadership of Leon
Feldhendler, who had been the chairman of the Judenrat in Zolkiew.  The
group was made up mostly of the heads of workshop work groups.  In light of
the method of collective punishment that the Germans instituted and the
presence of a minefield around the camp, the underground group reached the
conclusion that it was necessary to plan a large, organized escape during
the course of which most of the camp's prisoners would flee.  According to
one of the early plans, the boys who worked as servants in the SS living
quarters were to kill the SS while they slept, take their weapons and hand
them over to the members of the underground.  According to this plan, after
the killing, of the Germans the Ukrainian guards were supposed to join 
the insurgents and escape with them to the forest and the partisans. This
plan, however, was quickly shelved because it was feared that the boys,
aged 14-16, would not be up to the task, and because the plan would have to
be carried out in the early morning hours and that would give the Germans a
full day for pursuit.  (Testimony of Feldhendler's wife, YVA, 0-16/464;
Rutkowski, op.cit., p.16; testimony of Blat. op.cit., p. 77; Matz, op.cit.,
p. 213) 
 
     Another plan proposed in August spoke of setting the camp on fire 
in the afternoon hours (or, according to another version, in the middle 
of the night), and, in the ensuing commotion, when the SS and Ukrainians
would be called to extinguish the fire, the prisoners would burst through
the gates and flee.  But when word of this plan was conveyed to other
groups of prisoners, they rejected it. (Testimony of Feldhendleis wife, op. 
cit., p.  13; Rutkowski, op. cit., p. 15; Matz, op.cit., p. 213; testimony
of Dov Freiberg, The Attorney-General of the Government of Israel v.  Adolf
Eichmann, Minutes of Session No. 64, Jerusalem, 1961 [hereafter, Eichmann's
Trial]) 
 
     Another plan proposed digging a tunnel, but nothing came of it.  One 
of the major shortcomings of the underground group was the absence of 
someone with leadership ability and military training who would be able to
work out a complex escape plan.  Finally Feldhendler found a suitable
person: a Dutch Jew named Joseph Jacobs, a former naval officer, who had
been brought to Sobibor on May 21, 1943.  (The exact name of the Dutch Jew
is not certain, and there is no proof that his name was, in fact, Jacobs. 
According to another version, he was a journalist and fought in the
International Brigade in Spain: Louis de Jong, 'Het Koninkrijk der
Nederlanden--In de Tweede wereldoortog', Vol.  VIII--'Gevangenen en
Gedeporteerden', The Hague, 1918, p. 818.) 
 
     Jacobs took it upon himself to organize the uprising together with his

Dutch friends, in conjunction with the underground group.  According to the
new plan that was formulated, the insurgents, assisted by several Ukrainian
guards who had agreed to collaborate, would steal into the arms shed in the
afternoon, when the SS people were in the dining hall.  The insurgents
would arm themselves, burst through the main gate and escape to the
forests.  However, one of the Ukrainians informed, and the escape plan
became known.  Jacobs was seized and Interrogated about his partners in the
plot.  In spite of continued blows and torture Jacobs did not break and
adhered to his claim that he alone planned to escape.  Still, in reprisal
for the escape attempt, seventy-two Dutch Jews were murdered along with
him. (Testimony of Feldhendler's wife, op.cit., pp. 11-12; Rutkowski, 
op.cit., p. 22 (according to Rutkowski, it is possible that the escape took
place in July and not in August.); testimony of Freiberg, Eichmann's Trial,
op.cit.) 
 
     Another escape was planned in the first half of September 1943 by six 
Capos, headed by the Oberkapo Moshe Sturm.  But one of the prisoners, 
called Berliner, informed, and the six were caught and shot in full view of
all the prisoners.  As a reward the Germans appointed Berliner Oberkapo,
but shortly afterward the prisoners also "rewarded" him, and Berliner was
poisoned.  (In the camp, Moshe Sturm was called "Moshe the Governor." On
this, see Blat, op.cit., pp. 71-72; Rutkowski, op.cit., p. 21; testimony of
Izak Rotenberg, YVA, 0-3/4141, p. 3.  According to Bahir, op.cit., p. 12, a
Capo by the name of Positzka was involved in Berliner's poisoning.) 

     Another escape attempt was made in mid-September.  Prisoners kept in 
the extermination area (Camp 3) dug a tunnel that began in their barracks
and was supposed to reach beyond the fences and the minefield.  The work of
burrowing the tunnel was almost finished when it was discovered by the camp
guards.  The prisoners of Camp 3, who then numbered between 100 and 150
men, were shot as punishment.  When the Camp 3 prisoners were being taken
to be executed, the prisoners in the other part of the camp were kept in
roll-call formation under heavy guard as a preventive measure.  Afterward,
a new group of men was transferred to Camp 3.  (Testimony of Blat, op. 
cit., p.76. Testimony of Jacob Biskowitz, Eichmann's Trial; Matz, op. 
cit., p. 213; Rutkowski, op.cit., p.16.) 
 
     In spite of the repeated failures in organizing an escape and in 
spite of the heavy collective punishments--the killing of hundreds of 
prisoners in the camp, which caused terrible damage to the self-confidence
of the organizers--the underground group headed by Feldhendler continued
its tireless search for a new person able to lead the revolt and escape. 
This leader was now found in the person of a Jewish officer, a former
lieutenant in the Soviet army, named Alexander Pechorsky.  Pechorsky
arrived at the camp with a group of 100 Jewish war prisoners who had served
in the Red Army and had been kept at the SS labor camp in Minsk.  When the
Minsk ghetto was liquidated, this group.  together with a large transport
of 2,000 Jews, was brought to Sobibor.  Most of the Minsk Jews were sent 
directly to the gas chambers, save for a group of eighty men--most of them
skilled workers or prisoners of war--who were kept in the camp in order to
work on the construction of Camp 4 in place of the group of Dutch Jews who
had been murdered and the prisoners of Camp 1 who had been transferred to
the extermination area. 
 
     The arrival of the prisoners of war, a cohesive group with battle 
experience and bearing the glory of the Soviet army, lifted the morale of
the Sobibor prisoners.  The outstanding leader of this group was Lieutenant
Pechorsky.  Contact between him and Feldhendler was established by Shlomo
Litman, a Polish Jew and carpenter by trade who had been in the SS camp at
Minsk together with the Soviet prisoners and had arrived with them at
Sobibor.  Feldhendler was impressed by Pechorsky's personality, and at
their first meeting, which took place on the evening of October 29, already
suggested to him that he organize a mass escape from the camp.  In
subsequent talks conducted between the two, a group was established;
Pechorsky at its head and Feldhendler as his deputy.  The other members of
the group were four people from Feldendler's group and three from the Minsk
group.  (The members of the Feldhendler group were the heads of the various
groups of artisans: Janek headed the carpenters; Josef, the tailors; Jacob,
the cobblers, and Munik, the youth group. Members of the Minsk group were
Lipman, Tziebulski and Shubayev.  See Pechorsky, op.  cit., pp.  26-27,
41.) The cooperation between the two groups, with Feldhendler's group
contributing their experience in the camp and familiarity with its
conditions and Pechorsky's people contributing military know-how and
experience, led to the formulation of two plans that were supposed to make
possible the escape of all 600 prisoners from the camp, including the 150
women in Camp 1.  (In the Sobibor Camp there were also Jewish women
prisoners.  The first group was brought to the camp as soon as it was
established to work in the kitchen for the SS personnel.  Later, when it
was decided to keep a permanent group of prisoners in the camp, women were
included among them.  They were working in the kitchen, laundry and in
other services and were lodged next to the blocks of the Jewish male 
prisoners.) 
 
     The prisoners in the extermination area, who at that time numbered a
few dozen, were not informed of the plans, because of the inability to
establish contact with them.  In light of the lessons of the past and in
order to prevent treason it was decided this time not to bring the
Ukrainians in on the plan.  The first plan worked out by the new leadership
was based on digging a tunnel 35 meters long from the carpentry shed, which
was located near the camp fence, to a point beyond the fences and the
minefield.  According to the plan all the prisoners in the camp were to
escape, at night, through the tunnel.  Pechorsky was well aware that
digging a tunnel was a complicated matter that would take two or three
weeks, and even if the work were completed, the attempt to get 600 people
out on one night might well fail.  He also was told of the discovery of the
tunnel in Camp 3, and therefore an alternate plan was also worked out.  It
involved killing the SS people, seizing their arms, and escaping in an
organized flight.  And so along with the work of burrowing the tunnel,
which began on October 5 (Valentin Tomin and A.  Sinelnikov, Vozvrash.henie
me..helatelno, Moscow, 1964.) and was carried out only at night,
preparations were begun for the alternative plan. 
 
     Two of the Capos--Positzka and Czepik--who sensed that secret work 
was going on, realized that there was an underground organization and that
plans for an escape were being made.  They asked Pechorsky to allow them to
join the underground.  Their request was granted, for it was clear how much
the Capos could help in the preparations for the revolt.  And, indeed, on
October 8, with Positzka's assistance, two of the leaders of the
underground, Pechorsky and Litman, were transferred to work in the
carpentry shop, whose location enabled them to supervise the preparations
for the revolt.  (Pechorsky, op.cit., pp.31-32; Rutkowski, op cit., p.31.) 
 
     On October 8 and 9 heavy rains fell on the camp.  The streaming 
water penetrated the tunnel and utterly wrecked it.  It was clear that the
tunnel escape plan had to be abandoned.  At this stage eight of the 
prisoners of war decided to escape from the camp.  Pechorsky learned of
their plan and managed to talk them out of it by stressing the heavy
punishment that would be meted out to the other prisoners in reprisal for
their escape.  (Pechorsky, op.cit., pp.32-34.) Now the only remaining plan
was the alternate plan; it was very complicated and required precise
planning, and the prisoners had very little time left.  October 13 was set
as a possible date for the outbreak of the revolt, for according to the
information that the prisoners had, a group of SS men, among them two of
the most dangerous-- Wagner and Gomerski--would then be on homeland leave
in Germany.  On October 10, the eve of Yom Kippur, the camp authorities
allowed the prisoners to assemble in the women's barracks.  The underground
leadership used this opportunity to confer, and it was decided to begin the
armed uprising very soon.  (Tomin-Sinelnikov, op.cit.,pp.153-155; Ruckerl,
op.cit.,pp.195.) 
 
     On October 12, at 21:00 hours, the leadership of the underground met 
in the carpentry shed.  Ten people took part in this meeting.  (The ten
included Capo Positzka.  On that day, eighteen sick prisoners were taken to
Camp 3 (death camp), and this seriously affected the morale of the other
prisoners.  Pechorsky, op.cit., p.43; testimony of Blat, op.cit.,p.78.)
Pechorsky presented the plan of the revolt that was to take place the
following day.  The plan was divided into three stages.  

Stage A: Between 15:30 and 16:45 
 
     The quiet liquidation of some of the SS men who would be asked to 
come, each separately, to the workshops for clothing or shoe measurements,
for inspecting carpentry work, etc.  Feldhendler was put in charge of
asking the SS men to the workshops.  At the same time, the rest of the SS
people would be killed inside the buildings at the various places of work. 
These activities would be carried out in utmost secrecy in order that they
not be discovered by the other prisoners or the Ukrainian guards.  This
operation was assigned to special groups of two or three men each,
comprised of prisoners of war and long-time prisoners.  

     Each group had its own special task.  Two other men were assigned to 
cut the telephone line that ran from the camp's headquarters, across 
Camp 2, to the security forces in Wlodawa, and to cut off the electricity
in the camp.  Another group was to sabotage the camp vehicles.  The boys
and young girls who worked in the SS living quarters were given the job of
removing the ammunition and grenades they found there and delivering them
to the insurgents.  It was also decided to try to break in secretly to the
Ukrainians' guard room and remove rifles from there.  Positzka was supposed
to take a group from Camp 1 to Camp 2 (the central part of Sobibor was
called Camp 2), where the housing of some of the SS people was located, to
help eliminate the four SS men who were there. 
 
     The time for the outbreak of the revolt was fixed on the assumption 
that the separate elimination of the SS people could only take place 
during work hours.  Also, the hour had to be close to nightfall, in 
order to facilitate escape.  

Stage B: 16:45 
 
     The Capos Positzka and Czepik would get the prisoners into roll-call
formation in the center of Camp 1, as was done every day.  The prisoners of
war and the underground people were to occupy the front rows and then the
Capos would lead the men toward the exit gate.  On the way to the gate the
insurgents would seize the arms shed.  When the Ukrainian guards would
become aware of what was happening and open fire, the insurgents would
return fire, and the quiet operation would turn into an armed revolt.  The
insurgents would break open the gate and break through the southern fence,
near the SS quarters, on the assumption that mines were not laid in that
area.  

Stage C 
 
Escape to the forests and joining up with the partisans.  This stage was
not worked out in any detail, and each of the escapees would have to find
his own way to refuge.  (Pechorsky, op.cit., p.43; Rutkowski, op.cit.,
pp.31-32.) About forty prisoners and POWs were privy to the secret of the
revolt. 
 
     October 13, the day set for the uprising, arrived.  But on that day an
unexpected German inspection committee arrived at the camp, and the heads
of the underground therefore decided to postpone the revolt.  That evening
another meeting was held at which it was decided to carry out the plan the
following day.  The implements that would serve as weapons--knives, axes,
specially sharpened shovels and other tools--were distributed to the
members of the underground. (Testimony of Blat op.cit., p.78; Rutkowski,
op.cit., pp. 30-31; Abraham Margolis, "Mi-Varsha le-Sobibor,"
'Sobibor--Mahane ha-Avadon ve-ha- Mered, Tel Aviv, 1979, p.72 ) 


The Revolt - October 14, 1943 
 
     Up until the hour that had been set for the outbreak of the revolt, 
life in the camp continued as usual.  Except for the underground members,
the vast majority of the prisoners in the camp did not know what was about
to happen.  The first stage of the revolt was also carried out as planned:
between 16:00 and 16:30 hours, eleven SS men who had been called to the
workshops were killed, among them the commander of the camp,
Untersturmfu"hrer Niemann.  These were all the SS people in the camp that
day, save for one--Frantzel--who was called to the workshops but did not
come.  The operation in Camp 1 was run by Pechorsky, while Feldhendler
commanded the operation in Camp 2.  The telephone and electric lines were
cut, and the motor vehicles immobilized.  The blacksmiths' group removed
six rifles from the Ukrainian guard room, and these were handed over to the
underground.  (Pechowsky, op.cit., p.54; testimony of Blat, op.cit., p.81;
Rutkowski, p.35; Stanislaw Shmeizner, "Me-Opole le-Sobibor," Sobibor,
op.cit., p.65.) All of these activities were carried out without the
Ukrainians at their posts or in the guard towers being aware of what was
happening. 
 
     At 16:45 Positzka and Czepik began assembling all the prisoners into
roll-call formation.  At that point the rest of the prisoners sensed that
something was afoot, but they still did not know what. According to the
plan, the prisoners of war and the members of the underground, some of them
armed, took up position in the front rows. The operation plan was now
disrupted.  A truck that had arrived from outside the camp appeared in Camp
2 and came to a halt near the building of the camp headquarters.  The
driver, Oberscharfu"hrer Bauer, spotted a dead SS man lying there and then
saw a prisoner running from the building.  He immediately opened fire on
him. (Testimony of Biskowitz, Eichmann's Trial.) At the same time the
commander of the Ukrainian guard, a Volksdeutsche from the Volga area,
appeared at the roll-call square.  The insurgents attacked him and killed
him with ax blows.  The rest of the prisoners became panic-stricken.  The
Ukrainian guards, who now realized what was happening, opened fire.  At
that point Pechorsky decided not to wait until all the prisoners were
assembled, as planned, and instead began stage two of the revolt.  With
cries of Come on!  Hurrah!  the insurgents broke toward the gate and the
fences, and from that moment on there was no control over what happened. 
Some of the insurgents broke open the main gate and escaped from there
southwest toward the woods.  Another group broke through the fences north
of the gate. The first of this group triggered the mines, were wounded and
killed, but the others who crossed the area where the mines had already 
exploded, managed to flee, as they stepped over the bodies of their 
comrades. 
 
     The planned takeover of the arms store was not carried out, but the
insurgents did succeed in killing the guard and taking his rifle. Those who
were armed with rifles opened fire on the Ukrainians and killed four of
them.  The only SS men remaining in the camp, Bauer and Frantzel, and the
other Ukrainian guards returned fire.  Another group of insurgents, headed
by Pechorsky, broke through the fences near the SS living quarters, where,
as they had correctly assumed, mines had not been laid.  Other prisoners
who were still in the area of Camp 2 now fled toward Camp 4.  (Ibid.;
Pechorsky, op.cit., p. 56; Jacob Biskowitz, 'Mi-Hrubieszow le-Sobibor,"
Sobibor, op.cit., p.110; testimony of Goldfarb, op.cit., p.26.) 
 
     Of the 600 prisoners who were in the camp on the day of the uprising,
300 managed to escape.  About 150 were killed by the guards' gunfire or by
the mine explosions.  Approximately 150 sick prisoners and those from
Western Europe and Germany, who had not been let in on the preparations for
the revolt, and those who did not manage to escape, remained in the camp
area.  Some of them got hold of weapons and continued to fight until they
were killed.  Some of those who were caught on camp grounds were shot that
very same day.  The others, including the prisoners in Camp 3 (the area of
the gas chambers) who had taken no part in the uprising, were shot on the 
following day when the chief of staff of Operation Reinhard, Hermann 
Hofle, arrived in the camp from Lublin.  (Rutkowski, op.cit., pp. 42-43;
Ruckerl, op.cit., pp.196 197.) 

The Escape to the Forests and the Pursuit 
 
     Word of the revolt of the Jewish prisoners in Sobibor, which reached 
Chelmno and Lublin after some delay because of the cut telephone lines,
caused a good deal of panic at German headquarters.  According to the
report a revolt had broken out in Sobibor during which the Jewish prisoners
had killed almost all of the SS, had seized the arms store, and, as a
result, all of the security people still in the camp were in danger.  The
report also stated that 300 prisoners had fled in the direction of the Bug
River, and there was the danger that they might link up with the partisans. 
The few SS remaining in the camp were in shock, and some of the Ukrainian
guards had exploited the commotion to flee from the camp.  (Testimony of
Liskowitz, Eichmann's Trial.) 
 
     Following the alarm that same night a large pursuit force was sent to 
the camp.  The force consisted of a company of mounted police, a company of
Wehrmacht soldiers, police and SS forces from Wlodawa and Lublin and about
120 Ukrainians from Sobibor.  It numbered some 400 men.  The search itself
began only at dawn.  In addition, two or three surveillance planes were
employed to follow the escapees in the fields and forests.  The uprising on
the grounds of the camp itself was quickly put down.  But the search in the
surrounding area under the command of Hauptsturmfu"hrer Wilbrandt, which
was to prevent the escapees from joining the partisans on the other side of
the Bug and to prevent them from spreading the word about the mass
exterminations in Sobibor, lasted for more than a week.  After that time
only the company of mounted police continued to comb the area. 
 
     The escapees had split into a number of groups. (One of them,
headed by Pechorsky and numbering a few dozen fugitives, assembled in the
forest.  They had four pistols and a rifle.  At night they met up with
another group and together numbered about seventy-five men. (Pechorsky, op. 
cit., pp.59-60; testimony of Blat, op.cit., pp. 82-83.) On October 15, the
day after the escape, the men in the group hid in a small wood near the
railroad track.  The German surveillance planes that circled overhead did
not notice anything.  In the evening the group continued north, but on the
way encountered two other escapees who reported that the Bug River
crossings were heavily guarded by the Germans.  Under these circumstances
Pechorsky decided that a group that large had no chance of eluding the
pursuit force. He argued that they must break up into smaller groups, each
of which would try to get past the Germans on its own.  He himself chose 
another eight men from among the prisoners of war and set out.  This 
created some opposition on the part of the other fugitives, who feared
being left without leadership, but, as they had no choice in the matter,
they, too, broke up into small groups that tried to get through the danger
area.  (A particularly striking accusation raised against Pechorsky is that
of Blat who claims that Pechorsky chose all the men equipped with arms, and
that only one of them, Shlomo Shmeizner, remained with the others.  Blat
also claims that Pechorsky told the men that he was going to investigate
the area and would then return, and it was only after it became clear that
he was not coming back that the rest of the escapees decided to split up
into small groups and try to find their way alone.  Testimony of Blat,
op.cit., pp.83-86.  It must be emphasized, however, that Pechorsky's basic 
concept was justified and that partisans always used this method when
facing large enemy forces.  See description of events in the forest in
Pechorsky, op.cit., p.62.) 
 
     Pechorsky and his men managed to get across the Bug on the night of 
October 19.  Three days later they met Soviet partisans from the Brest
region and joined up with them.  (ibid, p.69.) Other groups of escaped
prisoners also managed to link up with Soviet partisan units. 
 
     Feldhendler, together with another dozen or so escaped prisoners, 
hid in the forest for a number of weeks.  He himself found shelter for 
two months at a Polish friend's in his town of Zolkiew.  Later he. 
too, joined the partisans.  (Testimony of Feldhendler's wife, op.cit.,
pp.21-22.) 
 
     Other groups of escapees who roamed in the Parczew forest northwest of
Sobibor encountered, after several weeks of searching.  Polish partisans of
the Armia Ludowa (People's Army) and a group of Ychiel Grynspan's Jewish
partisan unit.  An instance is also known in which six fugitives from
Sobibor were murdered by a local gang that posed as a partisan unit. 
(Testimony of Goldfarb, op.cit., pp.30-31; testimony of Biskowitz,
Eichmann's Trial; Rutkowski, op.cit., pp. 45,46.) 
 
     In the week following the escape, 100 of the 300 escapees were
captured or shot to death.  (Rutkowski, op.ail., p.43.) It was a great
achievement on the part of the insurgents that 200 of them did manage to
get away.  several factors contributed to their success. The searches,
which began only in the morning hours, allowed enough time for many of the
prisoners to slip away from the camp area.  The many woods in the region
also hampered the searches, even from the planes.  Furthermore, the Germans
were mistaken in supposing that most of the escaped prisoners would head
east to the Bug and therefore in stationing most of their forces at the Bug
crossing points.  In fact, most of the fugitives, especially the Polish
Jews, headed north to the Parczew forest. 
 
     The attitude of the local population to the escapees was not uniform.
Some have told of the assistance they received from the local population,
whereas others stress a hostile attitude and instances of farmers trying to
rob or kill the fugitives.  There were also instances in which they
succeeded.  (Testimony of Blat, op.cit.,pp.94, 97-98, 107-108) 
 
     However, despite the relative success, the vast majority of the
escaped prisoners did not live to witness the day of liberation. Some were
caught and killed at later stages of the escape, and others died as
fighters in the ranks of the partisans.  It is estimated that from all the
escapees from Sobibor, only about fifty survived until the day of
liberation.  Some of them, however, including Feldhendler, were killed
_after the liberation_, on April 2, by right-wing Poles. (On Feldhendler's
death, see Nathan Eck, "Sho'at ha-Am ha-Yehudi be-Eropa," Tel Aviv,
Jerusalem, 1976, p.255.  We have in our possession thirty-seven recorded
testimonies of which thirty appear in "Sobibor," op.cit.  Another six
survivors, apart from Pechorsky, now live in the Soviet Union, and there
are reports of additional prisoners who survived (two at present live in
Holland).  It may therefore be assumed that the number of survivors was as
least fifty.) 
 
     Three days after the outbreak of the revolt, on October 20, 1943, the 
last Jews of Treblinka were brought to the camp for extermination. 
Afterward the camp was liquidated, its buildings dismantled, and on 
its ploughed-up soil trees were planted. 
 
     The Sobibor revolt and the fear of similar revolts apparently 
influenced Himmler in his decision to order Friedrich Kru"ger, the supreme
commander of the SS and police in the General-Government, to hasten the
elimination of all the Jews still remaining in camps in the Lublin
district.  In an operation the Germans called 'Erntefest' ("harvest
holiday"), at the beginning of November 1943, 42,000 Jews in the Majdanek,
Trawniki and Poniatowa camps were killed. (According to various reports in
our possession, 15,000 Jews were murdered in Poniatowa, 10,000 in Trawniki,
and the rest in Majdanek. See Nachmann Blumental and Joseph Kermish, eds.,
'Ha-Meri ve-ha-Mered be-Getto Varsha - Sefer Mismachim,' Jerusalem, 1965,
pp.451-453.) 
 
     Although the uprisings in Treblinka and Sobibor did not take place 
according to plan, in the end they were successful.  Many scores of 
prisoners did escape, and some of them did survive.  By their act of 
revolt, they not only wrote an important page in the history of Jewish
fighting during World War II, but also succeeded in bringing to the world,
during the days of the war itself, the terrifying truth of what had been
done in the extermination camps.  They have also furnished detailed
_first-hand_ accounts of these two camps and have thus contributed to the
history of the Holocaust period.
 
YITZHAK ARAD 
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