Sobibor Death Camp


The Sobibor death camp was constructed in a remote, sparsely populated area some 70km east of Lublin, Poland, near today's Polish-Ukrainian border. Sobibor was one of the death camps built solely to implement the Final Solution. Thus, physically it was relatively small with barracks for the guards, barracks for a small group of prisoners who did manual labor around the camp and several functional buildings. Unlike concentration camps, Sobibor's death camp status meant that incoming transports of Jews were immediately sent to their death and no actual selection took place to weed out individuals for slave labor as happened in camps like Auschwitz which was also a concentration camp and its prisoners were used as slave labor. Also, unlike concentration camps whose prisoners came from all ethnic/national groups, Sobibor was only received transports of Jews for execution, some 260 000 of whom were murdered there. Only a small group of prisoners were kept alive to conduct manual labor around the camp (gardening, sorting victims' possessions, burning bodies, etc.)

Sobibor village train station. The camp was to the right

Sobibor operated from May 1942 to October 1943 when a group of the prisoners decided to attempt an escape. Thus, on the 14th of October 1943, the rebellion began. Several of the German and Ukainian guards were killed and the prisoners made a run for the woods. The price for the rebellion was high as only 47 out of about 300 managed to survive thanks to Polish civilians and partisans who took care of them. The others were killed during the rebellion and the subsequent manhunt while those who chose to stay behind were executed the next day.

Monuments to the victims of Sobibor

After the rebellion the Sobibor camp was shut down and dismantled. Its dismantling was so complete that even now the exact location of individual buildings of the camp is not known and monuments were constructed at the estimated sites of the gas chamber and the site where bodies were burned (there was no crematorium and bodies were burned in the open air.)