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Leading Nazis in Sobibor

Approximately 100 Germans and about 200 Ukrainian guards worked in Sobibor during its eighteen months of existence. Other than the commander and his deputy, all Germans were non-commissioned officers, but were always superior in rank to any of the Ukrainian guards. Their function in the camp varied. Some had specific assignments such as setting up the gas chambers and crematoria; other rotated from other Operation Reinhard camps. And there were some, like Karl August Frenzel, who were at Sobibor from the beginning to its end. At any given time the German personnel amounted to about 30 men, of whom approximately one half was always on rotating vacations.

Having the spoils of their victims at their disposal, the Sobibor Nazis lived in the utmost comfort, supplementing military rations with foodstuffs stolen from the murdered Jews. The best tailors, cobblers, culinary experts, dentists and mechanics were kept as laborers who used their talents to make life easier for the Germans assigned to the wilds of Poland. Some even put in orders to the mechanics shop for bicycles made from converted baby carriages, for their children in Germany. Some enriched themselves by stealing valuables, even gold teeth pulled from the victims bodies.

Safe from the front line duty, the non-commissioned officers received an average monthly pay of 58 Reichsmark and close to ten times this amount in bonuses of 18 Reichsmark a day; a total of about 600 Reichsmark. Other incentives included three weeks vacation every three months.

Most of these Germans, all fairly young, were family men. Some, like Frenzel, claimed even to be religious.

Source: Historical research of Thomas ‘Toivi’ Blatt, survivor of the Sobibor death camp who escaped during the uprising on October 14, 1943. Provided by his daughter Rena Smith.