The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Life and Fall of Wlodowa

The Memorial Book of Wlodawa

The uprising of the Jews of Wlodowa in Sobibor
Ada Lichtmann

It was in the days of the great terror, when they were persecuted like dogs. Homeless. After I was uprooted from my native town Krakow to several labour camps I arrived in Sobibor and here after a merciless selection, I remained working in the laundry.

In this extermination camp about 600 people were busy with all kind of work. There were also workshops for tailors and shoemakers. Many of them were occupied classifying and amending the garments that the victims stripped off before going into the gas chambers. In a special room there were drawers in which there was an assortment of jewels and gold teeth which were pulled out from the Jewish corpses. In this room a selected group of labourers worked under strict supervision.

Not far from the laundry there was a knitting factory managed by a sixteen year old Jewish student, Micha Spira from Mebidgosh. She came to Sobibor after denunciation directly from school with her uniform and her schoolbooks. In this knitting factory 20 women were working unravelling the yarn of woolen sweaters that had been taken from the corpses and were also knitting socks for Hitler's murderers.

Once a train arrived with Jews and their belongings from Holland. A special car containing all kinds of food was attached to this train: Cheeses, coffee, sugar preserves and other good things were to be found there. This was a present from the queen of the Netherlands for her citizens who left for "labour camps".

These Jews enjoyed of an extraordinary reception. Upon descending from the train they found tables full of bread, marmalade and coffee. They were removed to the working houses where they were told to write letters home saying that they had arrived safe and sound and that all was well. Only after having signed their letters were they sent to the Sanitary Center -- the gas chamber. One one of these days a rebellion broke out. Seventy French Jews, seeing that they had been brought to an extermination camp revolted and tried to fight their way to freedom. The resistance failed and all were shot in front of the other camp inhabitants.

The laundry was next to the area of the railway station where the Jews arrived. In my work, bringing and delivering the laundry I saw, in the year 1943, a train with Jews from the Ghetto Wlodowa. From the sides of the wagons planks were missing in several places, a sign that they had been plucked up by the Jews who had jumped from the galloping train.

The Jews of Wlodowa refused to descend from the cars. They had taken with them such things as pots and bottles as they had been told that they were going to labour camps. These they now threw at the SS-men. The SS-men fired but the Jews did not get off until the camp leader Gustav Wagner came and appeased them. He told them that nothing bad would happen to them and that people were needed for different kinds of work. The Jew finally believed that they were being led to work and abandoned the cars. On that very day they died in the gas chambers.

On 1943 the Jews of Wlodowa who had worked in the workshops rebelled. Micha Shapira who had supervised the knitting factory also participated in this mutiny. She was shot at by the SS-man Karol Frenzel while trying to escape.

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