Example Of Research Paper On Sobibor Extermination Camp
The word ‘holocaust’ derives from the Greek ‘holokaustos’ (a burnt offering, a sacrifice by fire) and means the tragedy of the Jewish people during the period from 1933 (the arrival of Adolf Hitler to power in Germany) until 1945 (the end of the Second World War). Then it was destroyed more than 6 million of people just because they were Jews. The term ‘holocaust’ first appeared in American journalism of the 1960’s as a symbol of crematoria of the Auschwitz death camp. It is used along with the term Shoah, taken from the Hebrew (Shoah - a catastrophe) (Schelvis, Moore).
Out of the more than 6 million of Jews-victims of Holocaust, nearly 2 million were killed during the ‘Reinhard Operation.’ The results are appalling: the vast majority of Jews until the spring of 1942 on the territory of the General Government (Central and Lesser Poland and Galicia) and in the district of Bialystok (Białystok Voivodeship) to the summer of 1943 were killed. This tragic figure includes tens of thousands of Jews in Central and Western Europe (Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and others), deported to three extermination camps, established under this operation. These camps were Bełżec, Treblinka and Sobibor (Lev).
Most Jews in the countries of Central and Western Europe were still living with illusory hopes. These illusions were gradually dissipated after the fall of 1941, when they were forced to wear the decals, and began to be sent via trains to the east, in Poland, it was unfolded the ‘Reinhard Operation.’ It was named after the head of the Reich Security Office of the Reich Reinhard Heydrich. He was assassinated in Prague in June 1942, his funeral took place at the highest political level and in the memory of him (and as a warning to the rebellious) the operation, which killed 2 million Jews, was called as ‘Reinhard Operation’ (Lev).
Sobibor camp was located in the south-east of Poland near the village of Sobibor (now in the Lublin province). Its only aim was the achievement of ‘Reinhard Operation’ namely, to destroy the Jewish population living in the so-called ‘governor-general’ (Poland, occupied by Germany). Subsequently, the camp brought Jews from other occupied countries: Lithuania, the Netherlands, France, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union (Schelvis, Moore).
The camp commandant from April 1942 was Obersturmfuhrer SS Franz Stangl; his staff consisted of about 30 non-commissioned officers of the SS, many of whom had the experience in the euthanasia programs. Ordinary security guards for duty on the perimeter of the camp were gathered from the collaborators - former prisoners of war from the Red Army (Lev).
The camp was located in the woods near the halt Sobibor. The railroad came to a standstill, which was to help to preserve the secrecy. The camp was surrounded by four rows of barbed wire with the height of three meters. The space between the third and fourth rows was mined. Patrols went between the second and third rows. Day and night on the towers, where the whole system of fences was viewed, guards were on duty (Lev).
The camp was divided into three main parts - the ‘subcamps,’ each had their own, strictly defined purpose. The first was a work camp (workshops and residential barracks). In the second there was a hair barrack and warehouses, where it was stored and sorted the things of the killed people. The third chamber contained a gas, where people were sacrificed. For this purpose, in an annex in the gas chamber it was established few old tank engines, which emitted the carbon gas supplied through pipes to the gas chamber. Most of the prisoners, brought into the camp, were killed on the same day in the gas chambers. Only a small part of them were kept alive and used in the various works in the camp (Schelvis, Moore).
Sobibor camp was established in March 1942 and lasted until October 1943. During the one and a half years in the camp there were killed about 250 000 of Jews. As it has been said, almost all prisoners of each train, arriving at Sobibor usually were killed within two hours mainly in the gas chambers. In the transition to the third sector (subcamp), women and children were sheared, and hair must be disposed of in favor of the Reich. The second and third sectors were isolated from one another by the barbed wires and connected together by two masked wire corridors (Lev).
Between the first and second sectors there were officers’ and residential homes barracks of the guardians, and near the second sector there was the economic yard. The whole camp was surrounded by three rows of barbed wire height of three meters. Further, there was a ditch filled with water, and a number of barbed wires. Every fifty yards there were the towers with machine guns, and between the rows of barbed wire there went the armed sentries (Novitch).
It would seem that it was impossible to escape from the camp or to carry out a successful revolt. However, it was held on October 14, 1943, despite the fact that the prisoners were not armed and despite the fact that the preparation of revolt was carried for a very short time (for about two weeks as the prisoners could be at any day gassed and replaced). And despite the fact that the uprising itself was going to happen in the shortest possible time in order to make the Nazis to not have the time to call in reinforcements (Novitch).
In July and August, 1943, in the camp it was organized the underground group led by the son of a Polish rabbi Leon Feldhendler, who was previously a head of the Judenrat. According to the plan of this group was to organize an uprising and mass escape from Sobibor. At the end of September, 1943, Soviet prisoners-Jews came from Minsk into the camp. Among the new arrivals there was Lieutenant Alexander Pechersky, who joined the underground group and headed it, and Leon Feldhendler became his deputy (Novitch).
On October 14, 1943, the prisoners of death camps revolted under the supervision of Pechersky and Feldhendler. According to the plan of Pechersky, prisoners had to secretly eliminate the SS camp staff, and then, seizing the weapons, stockpiled in the camp, to kill the guards. The plan succeeded only partially - the rebels were able to kill 11 (12 according to other sources) of the SS camp personnel and several guards-Ukrainians, but the attempt to seize the armory failed. The guard opened fire on the prisoners, and they were forced to break out of the camp through the minefields. They managed to crush the guard and go into the forest. Out of the nearly 550 prisoners of the work camp 130 did not take part in the uprising (stayed in the camp), about 80 were killed during the escape. Others managed to escape (Schelvis, Moore).
In the next two weeks after escaping, the Germans made a real hunt for the fugitives, which was attended by the German military police and guards of the camp. During the search it was found 170 fugitives, all of them were immediately killed. In early November of 1943, the Germans stopped the actively search. Between November, 1943 and to the liberation of Poland, about 90 of former prisoners of Sobibor (those who Germans failed to catch) were given to the Germans by the local population, or killed by collaborators. Until the end of the war it was alive only 53 participants in the revolt in Sobibor.
The uprising in the Sobibor camp was the only successful uprising in all the years of the Second World War. Immediately after the escape of the prisoners, the camp was closed and razed to the ground. In its place, the Germans plowed the land, planted it with cabbage and potatoes. After the uprising Himmler ordered to destruct the camp. Thus, buildings were destroyed, the land plowed and planted (Lev). Nevertheless, Polish and Israeli archaeologists, after years of searching, found the remains of the gas chambers of the Nazi death camp Sobibor in Poland. The discovery of the gas chambers of Sobibor is a very important finding for the study of the Holocaust. The discovered during excavations the remains of the gas chambers will also help to get an idea of their bandwidth capacity and more accurate data on the number of killed at Sobibor. In contrast to the Auschwitz concentration camp, Sobibor death camp was exceptionally equipped to kill people. The prisoners of Sobibor camp had not even a meager chance for the survival, which the prisoner had in other camps, such as labor camps.
Nazis in Sobibor were ruined by their punctuality (almost all of them came for their belongings at the appointed time), as well as by the greed, and, above all, their racial theory: they did not expect that the Jews, which, in their opinion, were ‘subhuman,’ are capable for the rebellion, all the more so thoughtfully and quickly organized (Novitch).
After connecting of the guerrilla units with the Red Army, the former partisans were examined in a special section, and then enlisted in the army. All seven survive Jewish soldiers, who were the prisoners of Sobibor, served in the Red Army and came to Germany. And one of them, Semyon Moiseevich Rosenfeld, came to Berlin, leaving on the wall of the Reichstag the inscription ‘Baranovichi – Sobibor-Berlin’ (Lev).
Among the former Sobibor prisoners, only Pechersky was arrested and sent to the assault rifle battalion – a kind of penal battalion. According to the compilers of the book ‘Sobibor,’ the identification of the Jew - organizer and leader of the successful and unprecedented courage to revolt could hardly be approved from above.
Holocaust is the greatest in the history crime against humanity. In order to make this nightmare to become a reality, it was necessary a unique combination of a complex variety of factors: the complete subordination of the state to the National Socialist totalitarian regime, the active encouragement or tacit connivance of most of the population of Germany, perfidy, and finally deep-rooted anti-Semitism in Europe (Lev).
The Nazis constructed the gas chambers in order to increase the efficiency of mass killings and make the process more impersonal for the executioners. One of these death camps was the Sobibor camp. It was created for the mass murders of Jews. The sole purpose of its creation was to destroy the innocent people. However, exactly in Sobibor it became clear that no barbed dragged could become an obstacle to the ‘free hearts.’ The very fact of the uprising in Sobibor showed the incredible courage of its captives. And the success of this rebellion demonstrates the inexhaustible desire to be survived. This was the only case in the history of the Third Reich, when the anti-fascist camp revolt had a success and hundreds of prisoners could escape. And no butchers and inhuman tortures of Sobibor and of the whole Holocaust could destroy the remaining humanity (Lev).
Lev, Mikhail. Sobibor : a documentary novel of the Sobibor uprising. Jerusalem New York: Gefen, 2007. Print.
Novitch, Miriam. Sobibór, martyrdom and revolt : documents and testimonies. New York: Holocaust Library Distributed by Schocken Books, 1980. Print.
Schelvis, Jules, and Bob Moore. Sobibor : a history of a Nazi death camp. Oxford New York: Berg, 2007. Print.
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