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Archival photographs of the death camp in Sobibór

Several photographs taken in the German extermination camp in Sobibór by its crew members and discovered by the Bildungswerk Stanisław Hantz e. V. association (the so-called Niemann collection), will be on display documenting the history of the camp.

The exhibition is currently being created at the Museum and Memorial Site in Sobibór, a branch of the State Museum at Majdanek. It will present the functioning of the Sobibór camp in the context of operation "Reinhardt" – the mass extermination of Jews carried out by the Third German Reich in the General Government.

In addition to the newly discovered photographs and documents, visitors will be able to see 500 objects found in Sobibór during archaeological work. Most of them are personal items belonging to the murdered.

We present fragments of the iconography of the exhibition, which is scheduled to open in October 2020

1. An aerial photograph taken in 1944, depicting the grounds and remnants of the infrastructure of the German death camp in Sobibór. Approximately 180,000 Jewish men, women and children were murdered at the camp between 1942 and 1943. Most of the victims were Polish (90,000), Dutch (34,000), and Slovak (24,000) nationals, but they also included Jews from Austria, Germany, Bohemia, France, Lithuania, Russia, and Belarus. On October 14, 1943, the prisoners of Sobibór organized a successful uprising during which nearly 300 people fled the camp, approx. 60 survived until the end of WWII.

2. Heinrich Himmler and Odilo Globocnik, head of the SS and police force in the Lublin District. One of their meetings to discuss the extermination of Jews took place in Lublin on March 14, 1942. Before the war, Globocnik was an active member of Austrian NSDAP. Himmler chose him to act as the ruthless implementer of his racist policies in the East and coordinator of the extermination of Jews in the General Government. Upon completing the genocidal operation, Globocnik was appointed as head of the SS and police force in Trieste. After his arrest by the British, he committed suicide in May 1945.

3. Heinrich Himmler during a visit to the training camp in Trawniki. In the summer of 1941, Globocnik began forming a special unit composed of former Soviet POWs. The men, referred to as “Trawnikimänner” or “Hiwis,” were trained at the SS-Ausbildungslager in the town of Trawniki, from where they would be transferred to serve in the guard units stationed at the death camps. They also took part in the liquidation of ghettos in the GG and the suppression of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

4. Members of the camp’s SS personnel were mostly in their thirties, originally craftsmen, laborers, medical orderlies, drivers, and civil servants. Sitting on the left is the camp commandant, Franz Reichleitner; sitting by the table in the center is Erich Bauer, also known as the “Gasmeister.”

5. 1942 German phonebook for the Lublin District listing the phone number of the extermination camp administration office.

6. Confidentiality form signed by the perpetrators of “Aktion Reinhardt.” The Nazis strived to keep the extermination of Jews secret from the German public and the outside world. From July 1942, all “Aktion Reinhardt” staff members were required to submit written statements committing them not to disclose any information relating to the progress of the operation. Furthermore, a strict ban on taking photographs at the death camps was introduced. As you can see, this ban was not observed.

7. Grounds of the camp foreground at “SS-Sonderkommando Sobibor”. We can see the gate with the camp’s name and buildings occupied by the German staff and the guards.

8. One of 18 drawings found in the vicinity of Chełm, it depicts a transport of Polish Jews to Sobibór. The author was Józef Richter, a Jew himself, hiding under an assumed name. He did not survive the war. The text on the back reads: “A transport at the Uhrusk station, a hole in the car wall, blocked with wire. They know…”

9. Nametag from the door of Frans Bloemendal’s apartment. Frans Herbert Bloemendal was born on August 30, 1911, in Winschoten. He lived at Rijnstraat 13 I in Amsterdam. On April 2, 1943 he was deported to Sobibór. His father, Marcus Izak, was murdered in the gas chambers on May 7, his mother, Olga, on July 16. His older brother,Johan Erich, died in Warsaw on December 31, 1943.

10. Railway transport manifest dated October 20, 1943 documenting the transfer of prisoners from Treblinka to Sobibór. The prisoners were ordered to demolish the camp buildings. After the task was finished, the men were shot, and their bodies were burnt.

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