Especially concerning traumatic experiences happened many years before, we often change a situation to our liking, not on purpose, but able to live with. Interviewing the very few survivors, who outlived the horror and uprising in October 1943, I heard and learned about their escape from that horrible death camp and the way they tore the barbed wire, which surrounded Sobibor, with their bare hands. Although remembering extermination camp Sobibor divided into four smaller camps, they did not and could not remember the camp outlay. SS officers and their Ukrainian guards did not allow anyone to go from one camp to another. A camp for arrival, one camp for forced labor, a camp for officers and guards, and last camp where gas chambers ended the life of so many innocent people. One supposes 270.000 or more.
Not from the few survivors, but from documents, I learned how the people arriving in Sobibor, and already experienced so many traumas happened last days and weeks, had a terrible encounter with Polish farmers, waiting in front of the entrance to that extermination camp. Farmers would laugh and shout at the Jews inside those horrible freight trains, still unaware about their near future and death. “Throw us your money, anyway it will not redeem you from death, you are going to the gas!” After arrival, a sadist German officer, named Michiel, nicknamed “the angel” standing in front of the villa of camp commandant Stangl would welcome the newly arrived. Behind him red geraniums and many flowers, planted everywhere and decorating the blue/green painted house giving a false impression of serenity and peace.
That unbelievable creature resembling man, promised terrible lies such as hand over your luggage; we give you a receipt and everything returned before you leave. By the way, people in Nazi Germany complained about clothes, distributed to them after arriving from the many concentration and death camps. An often asked question; “Why is the Star of David still sewn on coats or other clothing and not removed.”
In Sobibor, as well Treblinka and Belzec, (three death camps especially established by Eichmann, and so called his “baby or special project”), only a very few victims would outlive hell. Some still in good health when arrived, assigned for work, and although slowly starving to death survived. They specialized in pharmacy, tailoring, barbers or other needed jobs. Even in that horrible camp, named Sobibor, the German criminals were in need of labor workers inside barracks assorting luggage, clothing and shoes of those already dead. Of course, the camp commandant and his officers wished to eat well and cared for, even in need of servants to arrange their cocktail parties, which they always held after murdering another 1000 innocent victims.
Peter and I, leave for Sobibor to meet with Yoram, one of the two archeologists, excavating at the former death camp. Yoram already told us about the many findings. Peter’s task would be to enter the database into his laptop and load on our new website, while I should photograph the many artifacts as well Sobibor itself. Although I knew what to expect, was not prepared for the oncoming events. Driving a rented car from Warsaw to Sobibor proved to be an adventure. Again, and as usual my GPS did not fulfill any expectation, however a well-prepared Peter read his map and we finally arrived at a very muddy parking place in front of the still standing, very small and red-roofed museum. Furthermore, and may the reader believe it or not, I discovered a football field, where the inhabitants of Sobibor village enjoy a nice afternoon playing on a field covering the buried remnants of the former extermination camp, also named SOBIBOR.
Leaving our car on the muddy parking space, we soon found an exited Yoram and Wojteck, the last a Polish archeologist. They assumed, however later proved wrong that they had found the site of the gas chambers. At that time, no one knew the exact places, because the existing maps of Sobibor appeared wrong and no one to ask. However, Yoram and Wojteck found burned remains of high hedges and fences once dividing between camps and lots of wire as well nails. I then heard for the first time about flocks of geese used by those criminals hunted to make a lot of noise not to hear the screams of the victims inside the gas chambers.
October 1943, and after the revolt the Nazis closed death camp Sobibor burning it to the ground trying to erase all evidence. They covered crimes with sand and planted trees to cover everything gas chambers included. Sad, however true, that no one returned from the gas chambers and no one outlived that terrible event to give evidence. Until 2006, and thoroughly planned excavations, nearly no one really knew the true history concerning extermination camp Sobibor.