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The deathcamp Sobibor was built in Poland near the small village of Sobibòr, close to a railroad line, and it was designed and constructed in the form of a rectangle, 400 by 600 meters in size. It was surrounded by a barbed wire fence 3 meters high, which had tree branches intertwined with it in order to disguise the camp. It was divided into three distinct areas, each independently surrounded by more barbed wire.

Transports arrived by rail, and prisoners were taken immediately toward the gas chambers. But the victims did not know what awaited them until the gas was being pumped into the sealed chambers.


When a train arrived, the victims were told that they had arrived at a transit camp en route to labor camps; before leaving, they were to take showers, and their clothes would be disinfected. The men and women were separated (children were assigned to the women), on the pretext of the showers. The victims were ordered to take off their clothes and hand over their valuables. 

Then followed the march to the gas chambers, which had been made to resemble shower rooms. Some 450-550 persons entered the chambers at a time. Everything was done on the run, accompanied by shouts, beatings, and warning shots. The victims were in a state of shock. When the gas chambers were filled, they were sealed and the gas was piped in.

To camouflage the screams of terrified victims being led to the gas chambers from the other inmates, the Nazis kept a gaggle of geese which they set loose at crucial moments.

Within 20-30 minutes, everyone inside was dead. The bodies were then removed and buried, after the gold teeth had been extracted. The whole procedure took two to three hours. In the meantime, the railway cars were cleaned, the train departed, and another twenty cars, with their human load, entered the camp.

The first transport included 10,000 Jews from Germany and Austria, 6,000 from Theresienstadt, and thousands from Slovakia. In the first two months - from early May to the end of June - 100.000 Jews were murdered in Sobibor. The Germans found that the gas chambers, which had a capacity of fewer than 600 people, were a bottleneck in the murder process. Therefore, a halt in camp operations in the summer was used to construct three more gas chambers, thus doubling the pace of extermination.

Other than killing Jews by the systematic method, SS also invented new ways to murder. They pushed Jews with umbrellas off roofs to assemble parachuting. Some stabbed workers in their backs with a small knife when the workers bent over to pick up branches. Others sewed up prisoners' trousers after throwing rats inside. Babies were thrown directly into garbage pits or were torn apart down the middle by their legs.

The smallest of the extermination camps operated by Nazi Germany during World War II, Sobibor also was the scene of the war's biggest prisoner escape. On October 14, 1943, about three hundred Jewish inmates - halfstarved, ill and despairing - rose in revolt killing several SS supervisors and Ukrainian guards. Several inmates were killed during the rebellion or during the escape attempt. All the Jews who stayed behind were executed the next day.

Of the inmates who made it to the forest, half were recaptured and killed by the Nazis and many murdered by anti-semitic Poles. Historians believe that less than 60 actually survived Sobibor - 260,000 were killed ..

After the uprising at Sobibor, SS Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler ordered the camp destroyed. The buildings were destroyed, the land plowed under, and trees planted. 

No trace remained by the end of 1943.



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