Sobibór Concentration Camp
|Historical Name of Location||Sobibór, Lublin, Poland|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseConstruction of Sobibór concentration camp began in Mar 1942 in occupied Poland. The construction was supervised by civil engineer SS-Hauptsturmführer Richard Thomalla, who had previously built the Belzec concentration camp, a camp established for the purpose of extermination of Jews just as Sobibór would be. It was located near the Sobibór railway station near the Chelm-Wlodawa railway line. The railway spur was built by non-Jewish civilians pressed into service from nearby villages, but the camp was mostly built by a crew of about 80 Jewish forced laborers. The construction crew was guarded by a squad of SS-trained Ukrainian collaborators. Upon the camp's completion, the entire construction crew was massacred. The camp was surrounded by barbed wire fencing, a moat, and minefields; SS guards lived in barracks within the confines of these structures. In mid-Apr 1942, when the camp neared completion, experimental gassings using vehicular engine exhaust began; the first experiment killed between 30 to 40 Jewish women from the Krychów forced labor camp, and the experiments overall killed about 250. Upon the camp's completion, SS-Obersturmführer Franz Stangl was named its first commandant, and would remain in this role until Aug 1942. When Jews arrived by train, they were generally told that they had arrived at a transit camp for a forced labor camp. While that might indeed be the fate of some of them, most of them were ordered to part with their valuables, separated by gender, ordered to undress, had their heads shaved (generally women only), and killed at one of the four gas chambers. About 500 were killed at each chamber at a time. Jewish workers disposed of the bodies of vicims from the gas chambers, either in mass graves or open air cremation pits. During Stangl's tenure, about 100,000 Jews were murdered at Sobibór.
ww2dbaseSS-Obersturmführer Franz Reichleitner succeeded Stangl in Sep 1942; he would be promoted to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer in Feb 1943 while still in the commandant role. He would be the last commandant of the camp.
ww2dbaseIn Oct 1943, Byelorussian Jewish prisoner of war Alexander Pechersky led a group of men in killing 11 SS guards and seized control of the armory. His plan was to continue the action covertly, ultimately allowing all prisoners to simply walk out of the front gate, but a number of dead guards were discovered before Pechersky expected, leading to his failure. Within days of Pechersky's failed mass escape plot, SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the camp closed. All evidence of the camp's existence was to be destroyed, and the site planted with trees. The last of the prisoners were murdered in late Nov 1943, and the last of the SS personnel departed in Dec 1943.
ww2dbaseDuring the camp's existence between Mar 1942 and Dec 1943, somewhere between 167,000 and 250,000 prisoners were killed there. They ranged in ethnicity, including Czechslovak, Dutch, French, German, Polish, and counries under the Soviet banner; in the latter group, some of them were prisoners of war.
ww2dbaseIn 1965, the first monument to Sobibór's victims was established. In 1993, a dedicated museum for Sobibór was established. One of the most sobering displays at the museum was a pyramid of ashes and crushed bones of victims, disinterred from the cremation pits. In 2014, the foundation of the four gas chambers were discovered.
Sobibór Concentration Camp Interactive Map
Sobibór Concentration Camp Timeline
|1 Mar 1942||Construction for Sobibór Concentration Camp in occupied Poland began.|
|17 Mar 1942||Sobibór concentration camp in occupied Poland conducted its first experimental gassing. Between 30 to 40 Jewish women from the Krychów forced labor camp were killed.|
|28 Apr 1942||SS-Obersturmführer Franz Stangl was named the first commandant of Sobibór concentration camp in occupied Poland.|
|16 May 1942||Sobibór concentration camp in occupied Poland was deemed fully operational.|
|1 Sep 1942||SS-Obersturmführer Franz Reichleitner was named the commandant of Sobibór concentration camp in occupied Poland, replacing Franz Stangl.|
|14 Oct 1943||Prisoners at Sobibór concentration camp in occupied Poland, led by Byelorussian Jew Alexander Pechersky, killed 11 SS officers and seized the armory. 158 prisoners were killed during this action. Of those who succeeded in escaping, 53 were killed outside the camp, and 107 were captured and executed. Only 58 avoided capture; many of them would join partisan units.|
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|WW2-Era Place Name||Sobibór, Lublin, Poland|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945