Last Sobibor Survivor Dies

Dear Readers:

A sad necrologue.  Two days ago, on June 3 the world lost the last surviving member of the team that escaped from Sobibor.  Semyon Rozenfeld, at the age of 96, died in the city of Rehovot, Israel, not far from Tel-Aviv.

The Nazi concentration camp in Sobibor, Poland was the site of an estimated 250,000 murders of ordinary Jewish people, brought there from all over Europe to die.  Everybody knows the story, how the inmates who had served in the Soviet army, refused to die quietly or watch other people die; they organized the uprising and escape.  Every survivor has now passed away, with Rozenfeld being the last one.  Reporter Alina Nazarova tells his amazing story:

Semyon Rozenfeld was born on 10 October 1922 in the Ukrainian village of Ternovka.  His photograph shows him, as a young man, with a thick head of hair and a strong handsome face.  Semyon finished school in October of 1940 (he would have been 18 then), and was immediately drafted into the army.  He served in the 150th Artillery Regiment.  In June 1941 his regiment stood between Minsk and Baranovichi.  A month later, by the end of July, their regiment was surrounded by the Germans, Rozenfeld was wounded and taken prisoner.

At first he was kept in an SS camp in Minsk.  A couple of years later, September of 1943, he was sent to Sobibor, along with other future heroes Alexander Pechersky, Arkady Vaispapir, and other Soviet Jewish POWs.

On October 14, 1943, Rozenfeld took an active part in the uprising.  Under Pechersky’s overall leadership, the rebels were able to kill twelve SS guards and break most of the camp’s inmates out into freedom.  Vaispapir, for example, personally killed SS officer Siegfried Graetschus with an ax to the skull.  Graetschus commanded  200 Ukrainian guards, hence Vaispapir effectively took out 201 men with one blow.  Vaispapir escaped into the forest and was able to hook up with partisans.

A Red Army tank crew rolls into Danzig, Poland in 1945.

Rozenfeld, with a few others, also hid out in the woods for a few months.  Then, in the spring of 1944 the Red Army took the city of Chełm, Poland.  Rozenfeld reported to the Soviet Command HQ there, was interrogated by SMERSH in case he turned out to be a double agent; but he passed the test and was sent to serve in the 39th Mobile Artillery Division.  In a street battle in Poznań, he was wounded.  In February 1945 he returned to the battlefront and participated in the capture of Berlin!

On the wall of the Reichstag Rozenfeld left the graffiti:  “Baranovichi – Sobibor – Berlin”.  Later that year, Rozenfeld was finally demobilized and allowed to go home.  In 1990, when things were getting really bad in Russia, Rozenfeld emigrated to Israel, as was his right as a Jew, and lived in Tel-Aviv until the end of his life.

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