Anniversary Of Sobibor Escape – Part IV

Dear Readers:

Today finishing up this piece by reporter Vladimir Veretennikov.  Veretennikov’s thesis is that the hero of the Sobibor uprising, Alexander Pechersky, was the product of a Soviet education and a Soviet mentality.  Such education imbued all-human secular values in the youth.  Salutary values such as humanism, collectivism, compassion for others, etc.  Such values being the function of an economic system which relied on collective ownership of the means of production, and rewarded manual labor.

American TV promotes militarism and public acceptance of wars of aggression…

It doesn’t take much brain-juice to realize that such values go completely at odds with modern capitalist/globalist culture.  A culture which denigrates manual labor, despises collectivism, idolizes elites, and inculcates selfishness, yay even unto psychopathological narcissism, as the proper values for the modern man.  Oh, it’s not like modern Hollywood products don’t pretend to human compassion, it’s pretty good at twisting those biology-based emotions that are still predominant in most of humanity.  For example, the typical “Hollywood” trick in any blockbuster or action TV show is to depict a helpless child in danger.  Evil Russians (for example) are trying to hurt the child.  The hero must protect the child, etc.  Audiences are manipulated into accepting the dominant thesis, and also invited to delve into their darker selves, secretly relishing the pornography of violence and gore, but placing the blame for all this nastiness on “the others” while patting themselves on the back for feeling these positive emotions towards the helpless child.

while playing on genuine human emotions of the viewers.

I also deduce from Veretennikov’s piece that he thinks (without being snarky like me) that the Director and star of the movie, Khabensky, shares Westie values, perhaps not in that same murderous degree; yet it would not be in his nature to praise anything about the Soviet system; and therefore he has to find a different reason for Pechersky’s transformation from an ordinary person into a hero.  Therefore, he came up with the idea that Pechersky’s experiences as a POW transformed him from a “Soviet man” into a more universal man.  It would have suited Khabensky’s purposes even more, had Pechersky got religion and become a devout Jew while puttering around the camp.  But that didn’t happen in reality.  Although I note that archeologists digging around the Sobibor site, found relics of Jewish religious artifacts, for example a wedding band with a Hebrew inscription.  No doubt these poor souls had their jewelry taken from them by the greedy Nazis, just before being ushered into the gas chamber.

Hamlet Or Fortinbras?

We return to the question posed yesterday:  Was Pechersky a Hamlet, or was he a Fortinbras?  Veretennikov writes that Khabensky portrays Pechersky as a Hamlet type wallowing in the moral dilemma “to be or not to be”.  Not sure what he means by moral dilemma, was he worried about killing too many Nazis?  After all, Nazis are people too!

In the real world, Pechersky showed no hesitation nor moral qualms about killing Nazis.  He swiftly entered a “conspiracy” that had already been in the works among the camp inmates.  Assuming the leadership (which the others did not dispute, because this guy was a Soviet officer), he began making leadership decisions.  In his memoirs he laconically shares the raw details, as to who did what, who said what, how they dispatched the German guards, and so on.  A softness creeps into his tone only when he is writing about “Luka”, one of the female prisoners of the camp.  According to this sourceLuka was a German Jewess who was deported from Holland who arrived in Sobibor with her father and was assigned to look after the rabbits.  She was the “ girlfriend” cover, for Sasha Pechersky’s meetings with Leon Feldhendler. She was probably killed in the revolt.

Luka joined the ranks of the “Immortal Regiment

Luka participated in both the planning and the actual escape.  The relationship between Sasha and Luka was a real-life love story that even the mills of Hollywood writers could not invent.  Just before the escape, Luka gave Pechersky one of her shirts, as a memento in case she died.  During the escape itself, in the fog of battle, the two unfortunately became separated from one another.  Luka disappeared into the woods, never to be seen again.  The probability is that the Nazis found her and shot her.

Another grievous loss was that of Pechersky’s close comrade Shloime Leitman:  “What agony!  To break out of the camp and then die, having already reached freedom!  We spent so many days together in the camp.  Days that seemed like years.  We lived together like brothers.  At night, we talked about everything and anything, lying side by side on our cots.  His clear mind, his calm, his courage, his loyalty — they sustained me in my darkest minutes.  We planned the uprising together.  I sought his advice on every detail.  It was enough for Leitman to nod his head, and I knew:  That was how we had to do it….[] Leitman is the man we have to thank, that we gained our freedom.”

The Escape

Everybody involved in the plot and the escape knew clearly, that this is a low-probability event; very few of us might actually survive.  But they were all willing to take the risk.  After all, nothing remained for them in Sobibor except inevitable death.

CBS aired a very good version of this story, back in 1987.

After fleeing from the camp, the surviving escapees crossed the Bug River and met up with a group of partisans.  And at that moment, the main saga of Pechersky’s life ended.  He went on to live another 46 years, with nothing special happening to him, except the blowback.  Some of those years were difficult, others not.  He never bragged about himself nor tried to portray himself as a hero.  But in his later years he felt he had a moral duty to tell the world what happened at Sobibor.  Especially since (as we discussed earlier in this post) the Soviet authorities were not particularly keen on digging up all this past history.  As far as they were concerned, the crimes which the Germans committed at Sobibor took place on foreign soil and were no longer of any concern to the Soviet government.  It was also not convenient for the Soviet government to be reminded of their sometimes harsh treatment of suvivors and POW’s.  In Russian culture (as in Japanese, from what I am told) there is certain stigma that is assigned to soldiers who “allow” themselves to be taken prisoner.  The only expiation for this stigma is, as Pechersky did, to escape and rejoin one’s unit.  But Pechersky did much more than just that:  He helped to organize the biggest escape ever from a Nazi death camp!  This was a feat so amazing, that even the American TV channel CBS aired a very good version of this story, back in 1987, starring Rutger Hauer as Pechersky.  I watched this British-made film recently, it is very good, I think I will stick with that and skip Khabensky’s version!

“The Electrician” – painting by Fedor Shapaev (1960)

Veretennikov ends his piece by reiterating his main thesis, and quoting Russian military historian Klim Zhukov, as follows:  “It’s not fashionable these days to say this, but we simply cannot edit out of this history, the fact that this man was a Soviet Lieutenant.  And not even from an elite unit, not from the counter-intel or special ops … [] or parachutists, he was not a marine.  This was an ordinary man, an electrician by trade, who went through only basic training in the Red Army, and then was drafted in the regular army when war broke out.  And here this man, an electrician, he was able to organize the biggest escape in history from a concentration camp.  Yes, he was a Jew by ethnicity, but how are we supposed to edit out of his biography, the fact that he received his military education, and indeed his education in general, in the USSR?”

Veretennikov concludes:  “Let us remember Alexander Pechersky.  Nobody is insured (in this life) against finding himself in an existential situation.  May God grant each of us the ability to act [in such a situation] as Pechersky would have done.”

This entry was posted in Human Dignity, Military and War, Russian History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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