Sobibor extermination camp

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sign of the train station (the ramp) where the prisoner transports arrived in Sobibór (2007)
Map of the camp (Sobibor Museum)
Sobibor extermination camp (Poland)
Map of today's Poland

The Sobibor extermination camp was a German extermination camp near the village of Sobibór , a village in the rural municipality of Włodawa , in southeastern Poland, with around 500 inhabitants . It was on the eastern border of what was then the Lublin district of the Generalgouvernement , in what is now the triangle of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine . The camp was established at the beginning of 1942, during the German occupation of Poland , and served alongside the Belzec and Treblinka camps as an extermination camp as part of the " Aktion Reinhardt " system for the scheduled murder of the Jews of the General Government. In the Sobibor extermination camp, it is estimated that up to 250,000 Jews were murdered in gas chambers , including probably 33,000 from the Netherlands alone .

Construction of the camp

The first plans for the camp probably go back to autumn 1941. At the beginning of 1942 an area of ​​12 hectares was fenced off; later it was expanded to 60 hectares. The construction work, which began in March 1942, was supervised by Richard Thomalla , who had previously supervised the construction of the Belzec extermination camp . The structure of the camp with two camp parts corresponded to the model Belzec; However, Sobibor grew significantly larger.

Camp I with the commanders' villa , arsenal, supply facilities and accommodation for around 30 German SS members and 90 to 120 " Trawniki men " was located directly on the railroad track. In this sub- camp there were also barracks for an average of 50 Jewish prisoners who were deployed there in repair workshops and for auxiliary services.

Camp II was screened off by privacy screens. In addition to stables and growing areas for vegetables, there were several accommodations for 400 prisoners. As a rule, 18 German SS members were assigned to supervise. This section was headed by Paul Rost in 1942 . All of the victims' possessions were collected, sorted and stored in Camp II. From this part of the camp, a 150-meter-long and three to four-meter-wide corridor, called the “Heavenly Road”, which was bordered with barbed wire and woven fir branches, led to the extermination site in Camp III.

In Camp III there was a stone building with gas chambers in which the victims, who had already been undressed in Camp II, were suffocated by engine exhaust. The murdered were buried by a work detail in a pit that was 60 meters long and 20 meters wide. In Camp III there was a kitchen and accommodation for the prisoners who had to take care of the body removal, strictly shielded from the other parts of the camp. From the summer of 1942, the work details had to exhume and burn the bodies before they were murdered themselves.

In June 1943 the outer fence of the camp was also mined. In the early summer of 1943, work began on setting up a fourth section of the warehouse in which booty ammunition was to be stored and processed; this project was canceled after the Sobibór uprising in October 1943.

In 2014, as part of archaeological excavations started in 2007, remains of four former gas chambers were rediscovered (see section “ Archeology ”).


In mid-April 1942, around 250 Jews from a nearby labor camp were killed in a "test gassing" process. From the beginning of May to the end of July 1942, up to 90,000 Jews were probably killed “factory-wise”; then the action had to be interrupted. On July 16, 1942, Heinrich Himmler's personal adjutant , SS General Karl Wolff , complained to State Secretary Albert Ganzenmüller about track repairs on the single-track route to the Sobibor extermination camp. He promised to increase the transport capacity to other extermination camps and to complete the work by October. In Sobibor, this time was used to expand the three existing gas chambers with additional rooms and thus to double the capacity to around 1,200 victims.

Himmler visited the camp on February 12, 1943. Since no transport train was expected, 100 women from Lublin were taken to the Sobibor extermination camp to demonstrate the extermination process to Himmler.

An exact determination of the numbers is not possible because all written documents were destroyed. Statements by Polish railway workers and individual train schedules allow rough estimates. The total number of those murdered in the Sobibór camp is estimated at 150,000 to 250,000 people. In the so-called Höfle telegram , with which the number of those murdered in the extermination camps is reported, exactly 101,370 Jews were killed for Sobibor at the end of 1942. However, the extermination operation continued. Dieter Pohl assumes a total of 152,000 victims in a publication from 2011. With reference to the research of Jules Schelvis , a number of 180,000 people is also named who were killed in Sobibor by autumn 1943. In 2017, Stephan Lehnstaedt presented new research results by Robert Kuwałek and Sara Berger, which assume that Sobibor will have at least 179,618 to a maximum of 238,900 victims; Lehnstaedt himself, however, considers an estimate of 180,000 to be realistic.

By early summer 1943, the deportations from the Generalgouvernement were as good as complete. Most of the victims were Polish Jews who were murdered in the Sobibór gas chambers as part of “ Aktion Reinhardt ”. Later it was also the Dutch, Germans, French, Czechs, Slovaks and Soviet nationals who were killed in Sobibór. For September 1943, individual transports from Lida , Wilna and Minsk can still be proven.

On July 5, 1943, Himmler had proposed to the camp after the expiry of the murders in a concentration camp convert and there the decommission to secure the services of ammunition. However, this plan was abandoned on July 24th.


On October 14, 1943, there was an uprising in Sobibor with subsequent mass exodus. The majority of the planning and implementation of the revolt were carried out by Soviet prisoners of war of Jewish origin from Belarus under the leadership of the Red Army man Alexander Petscherski and the civilian prisoner Leon Feldhendler . The rebels killed twelve SS members, including Josef Vallaster , and two Trawniki guards . Many prisoners died in the hail of bullets from the guards or in the minefield outside the barbed wire fence. 365 prisoners were able to escape from the camp, of which around 200 reached the nearby forest. By the end of the war , only 47 refugees from the camp were able to go into hiding or join partisan groups.

The SS then murdered the remaining camp prisoners who had not been able to escape. The SS members who were killed were coffin and buried with military honors in the military cemetery in Chełm .

The camp was no longer used, but razed to the ground. After that, an unsuspecting looking farm and a specially reforested young forest remained on the former site of the extermination camp.

Perpetrators and alleged perpetrators

SS-Obersturmführer Franz Stangl was appointed as the camp commandant in April 1942 . He was subordinate to the inspector of all three extermination camps of Aktion Reinhardt, Christian Wirth , and his superior, the SS and police leader in the Lublin district, Odilo Globocnik . Together with Stangl, around 20 to 30 members of the SS came to Sobibor, who had previously been involved in the murder of psychiatric patients and the disabled as part of Action T4 . They were supported by around 90 to 120 “ volunteers ” who had been trained in the Trawniki forced labor camp .

Only a small number of the perpetrators were charged in German courts. Wirth had been killed by partisans in Italy. Globocnik had committed suicide in 1945 . Stangl, who was only discovered in Brazil in 1967, was sentenced to life imprisonment in Düsseldorf in 1970. His deputy, Gustav Wagner , was also tracked down in Brazil; he committed suicide before extradition in 1980.

Stangl's successor was Franz Reichleitner (September 1942 - November 1943). Gustav Wagner remained a representative under him during this time.

SS man Erich Hermann Bauer was recognized by a survivor on the street in 1947. Bauer was convicted in 1950 and died in custody in 1980. On August 25, 1950, the SS man Hubert Gomerski was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Frankfurt Criminal Court, and Johann Klier , who was also accused , was acquitted. In 1965 twelve members of the camp staff stood before a court in Hagen ( Sobibor trial ). Five of the defendants were acquitted, the defendant Kurt Bolender committed suicide before the sentence was pronounced, and Karl Frenzel was sentenced to life imprisonment. Ukrainian security guards were tried in two trials in Kiev in the 1960s, including 13 death sentences and life imprisonment.

The Trawniki also included the Ukrainian John Demjanjuk , who was deployed in Sobibor from March to September 1943. In one of the last Nazi war crimes trials in Germany, he was sentenced on May 12, 2011 by the Munich District Court II to a prison term of five years for aiding and abetting murder in at least 27,900 cases. No specific act could be attributed to Demjanjuk individually, but the court already considered his service in Sobibor to be sufficient for a conviction, since as a volunteer there he was "part of the extermination machine"; Demjanjuk promoted the commissioning of the main crime through active action. The verdict did not become final until Demjanjuk's death in March 2012, as he died at the age of 91 before a decision on an appeal was made.



From June 30, 2014 to July 4, the Dutchman Jules Schelvis traveled again, like 71 years ago, by train from Amsterdam to Sobibor. He was the only one of the more than 3,000 deportees on this transport to survive the extermination camp. In Amsterdam, Berlin and Lublin the free musicians of the Dutch National Symphony and Chamber Orchestra each gave a concert and Jules Schelvis read the harrowing report of this transport.


Archaeological excavations in the area of ​​the former ramp (2014)

In 2007, archaeological excavations began on the site : in 2011 the so-called “Ascension Road”, a 100-meter-long path leading into an asphalt field, was discovered; as a result in 2014 the foundations of four gas chambers, which had been hidden under the asphalt cover, as well as a previously buried well in camp one, from where the Sobibór uprising had started. Prisoners probably threw numerous personal items into the well. This makes the Sobibor camp the only one in Aktion Reinhardt in which the industrially carried out extermination of people of the Jewish faith and other groups of people and individuals can not only be proven by testimony, although the traces and testimonies of the crimes were destroyed in 1943 for the purpose of covering up.


In 1961 the Polish state had a memorial erected on the ash field. It was not until 1993 that a small museum was set up on the anniversary of the uprising and a memorial plaque was replaced, on which there was no reference to the almost exclusively Jewish victims. In 2006 a memorial avenue was planted with trees. The memorial avenue follows the former path that the prisoners had to take from the railroad ramp to the gas chambers.

The work of the memorial and the maintenance of the facilities was carried out by a few Polish employees and historians and supported by private initiatives, in particular the Dutch “Stichting Sobibor”, Jules Schelvis and Thomas Toivi Blatt , the Bildungswerk Stanislaw Hantz e. V. of the Naturfreundejugend NRW around Georg Bückle and a few others, very often the surviving dependents of the victims.

In June 2011 the memorial had to close due to lack of funds in the district. Halving the funds for 2011 had already resulted in the dismissal of half of the employees, from 2012 the Polish Ministry of Culture intends to take over the financing.

On September 26, 2013, the ARD television magazine Kontraste quoted the Minister of State in the Foreign Office Cornelia Pieper as saying: “We were told that projects in Sobibor have been prepared with other partners so far, i.e. with the countries affected by them who also had inmates there. Germany was not there. ”The television journalists commented on these words as“ cynical and wrong! ”And remember the 20,000 German victims in the gas chambers in Sobibor, according to the Federal Archives. Pieper explained that her testimony to ARD referred to the fact that when the architects' competition for the redesign of the Sobibor memorial was announced - to which the ambassadors of the states that have suffered victims in Sobibor were invited - the Polish side also explicitly supported Germans Demand no expectations of support from the federal government had been formulated.

A representative from the German embassy in Warsaw said the federal government had never been officially asked for financial support for the Sobibor memorial. Poland's Vice Minister for Culture and National Heritage, Piotr Zuchowski, confirmed this, but added that the Polish side had repeatedly shown interest in German involvement.

Authentic photos

In 2015, a private collection with more than 300 pictures from the possession of SS-Untersturmführer Johann Niemann was discovered. Niemann documented his entire career in the SS in two albums and further individual photos. From the Esterwegen concentration camp to the so-called “ euthanasiacrimes to “ Aktion Reinhard ” in Belzec and Sobibor, where he was largely responsible for the implementation of the murder program. The pictures also show the Trawniki man Iwan Demjanjuk, who was convicted in Munich in 2011, for the first time on the camp grounds in Sobibor.


See also


Historical representations


Victim documents and reports

  • Philip "Fiszel" Bialowitz : A Promise at Sobibor: A Jewish Boy's Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland . University of Wisconsin Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-299-24800-0 .
  • Miriam Novitch (Ed.): Sobibor - Martyrdom and Revolt. Documents and Testimonies. Holocaust Library, New York 1980 (early collection of statements by survivors, partly poor translation of Polish originals and changes by the publisher).
  • Jules Schelvis: A journey through darkness. A report over two years in German extermination and concentration camps. Unrast Verlag, Hamburg / Münster 2005, ISBN 3-89771-815-4 .
  • Stanisław Szmajzner : Sobibor - Inferno em Sibibor. A tragédia de um adolescente judeu. Rio de Janeiro 1968 (Portuguese).

Perpetrator reports and documents

  • Conditions and incidents in the Lublin District of the General Government from January 1940 to April 1942 based on personal memories of Ferdinand Hahnzog , July 1962 . In: HStA, Nds, 721 Hild, Acc 39/91, No. 28/113, fol. 245.
  • Angelika Benz: The executioner: The trial against John (Iwan) Demjanjuk in Munich . Metropol Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86331-011-0 .
  • Photos from Sobibor. The Niemann Collection on Holocaust and National Socialism , ed. from Bildungswerk Stanisław Hantz e. V. and the Ludwigsburg research center at the University of Stuttgart. Metropol-Verlag, Berlin 2020, ISBN 978-3-86331-506-1 .


  • Master plan for the design of the Sobibor Memorial. ISBN 83-60321-03-5 . (via Marek Bem, Director of the Wlodawa / Sobibor Museum)


Web links

Commons : Sobibor extermination camp  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Figures differ for Schelvis: Sobibor extermination camp. P. 11 and Barbara Distel : Sobibor. In: Wolfgang Benz , Barbara Distel: The Place of Terror. Volume 8, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-57237-1 , p. 375.
  2. Mapping by Annika Wienert: Introducing the camp - The architecture of the National Socialist extermination camps . Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-95808-013-3 , pp. 66–72.
  3. Barbara Distel : Sobibor. P. 391.
  4. Barbara Distel: Sobibor. In: Wolfgang Benz , Barbara Distel: The Place of Terror. Volume 8, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-57237-1 , p. 375.
  5. Dieter Pohl: Mass killings by poison gas as part of the 'Reinhardt campaign'. In: Günther Morsch, Bertrand Perz: New Studies ... , ISBN 978-3-940938-99-2 , p. 193.
  6. Klaus-Peter Friedrich (edit.): The persecution and murder of the European Jews by National Socialist Germany 1933–1945 , Volume 9: Poland: Generalgouvernement August 1941–1945 . Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-486-71530-9 , p. 38.
  7. ^ Sara Berger: Experts of the destruction. The T4 Reinhardt network in the Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka camps. Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-86854-268-4 (Diss.), Here pp. 422–427.
  8. Stephan Lehnstaedt: The core of the Holocaust. Belzec, Sobibór, Treblinka and Aktion Reinhardt. Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-406-70702-5 , p. 84 with note 13 and p. 85.
  9. Barbara Distel: Sobibor. In: Wolfgang Benz , Barbara Distel: The Place of Terror. Volume 8, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-57237-1 , p. 383.
  10. Barbara Distel: Sobibor. P. 394.
  11. Schelvis: Sobibór extermination camp. P. 197.
  12. Alexander Petscherski (author): Report on the uprising in Sobibor, editor Ingrid Damerow , Metropol-Verlag March 20, 2018, ISBN 978-3-86331-387-6 .
  13. Online presence Museum Wlodawa, Poland ( Memento from May 31, 2009 in the Internet Archive ): Report (Polish) about the burial with photo of the military burial ceremony.
  14. Barbara Distel: Sobibor. P. 399 f.
  15. Judgment Ser. No. 924 LG Munich II May 12, 2011, JuNSV Volume XLIX, p. 361/363.
  16. Nazi war crimes: Court sentenced Demjanjuk to five years in prison , Spiegel Online, May 12, 2011.
  17. ^ Freedom despite conviction , taz, May 12, 2011.
  18. Dutch website of the memorial project "A train went to Sobibor" of the concert and reading tour for the 71st anniversary of the transport to Sobibor (Dutch).
  19. Archaeologists find remains of the gas chambers in Sobibór . Zeit Online , September 16, 2014.
  20. ^ Inge Günther: From industrial killing . Badische Zeitung , September 20, 2014.
  21. Suddenly voices from Jews come from the ruins . one day , 23 September 2014.
  22. Naturfreundejugend online presence ( Memento from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Report on planting work on a memorial avenue, the simulated death path from the ramp to the gas chamber.
  23. : "Stichting Sobibor" (Sobibor Foundation, NL). The foundation took care of the preservation of the death camp memorial and supports the Dutch survivors and bereaved. During the Demjanjuk trial, the foundation had done an outstanding job of looking after the joint plaintiffs.
  24. Sobibor page of Bildungswerk Stanislaw Hantz e. V.
  25. ^ An avenue for the victims of Sobibór, Bildungswerk Stanislaw Hantz e. V., Kassel, information on the memorial project on the site of the former Sobibór extermination camp in eastern Poland .
  26. The Sobibor Forest . ( Memento of January 31, 2012 in the Internet Archive ; PDF) accessed on May 13, 2011.
  27. Workcamp at the Sobibór Memorial ( Memento from January 31, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF): Workcamp at the Memorial , accessed on May 13, 2011.
  28. Memorial avenue in Sobibor , flashback - Against forgetting e. V., accessed on May 13, 2011.
  29. : Sobibor Nazi memorial closed - Head closes museum due to lack of money  ( page can no longer be accessed , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , June 2, 2011.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  30. ^ Auschwitz rehabilitation case: How much is Germany worth remembering? ARD magazine Kontraste, broadcast on September 26, 2013.
  31. German Bundestag : printed matter 17/14821 of October 11, 2013, page 6: Response of the Minister of State Cornelia Pieper from October 7, 2013 (PDF)
  32. Gabriele Lesser : Sobibor. Future of remembrance. Financial worries on the anniversary of the uprising . In: Jüdische Allgemeine , October 17, 2013.
  33. Martin Cüppers et al .: Photos from Sobibor - The Niemann Collection on Holocaust and National Socialism . Metropol-Verlag, Berlin 2020, ISBN 978-3-86331-506-1 , p. 191.

Coordinates: 51 ° 26 ′ 49 ″  N , 23 ° 35 ′ 38 ″  E