After decades buried under the earth in the Sobibor extermination camp, additional evidence of the Nazis’ brutal murder there of 250,000 Jews is finally coming to light.
The Nazis almost managed to conceal any trace of their systematic mass murder at Sobibor, which took place between April 1942 and October 1943 until it was cut short by a prisoners’ uprising. They then razed the camp to its foundations and planted a thick forest in its place in an attempt to conceal one of the largest crime scenes in human history.
Their plot almost succeeded until archeologist Yoram Haimi, who lost two of his family members in Sobibor, decided to make it his life’s work to uncover the camp’s horrors. After four years of intensive excavations, Haimi and Polish archaeologist Wojciech Mazurek, assisted by the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, have succeeded in uncovering the camp, including the “path to heaven,” a cynical name Nazis used for the walkway thousands of naked Jews took to the gas chambers. The two archaeologists also discovered the exact location of the gas chambers for the first time.
In addition, Haimi and Mazurek discovered many personal artifacts belonging to the murdered victims on the grounds of the death camp. The most dramatic and historically significant discoveries found at the Sobibor rescue excavations will be revealed in full tomorrow (Friday) in a comprehensive article in the Israel This Week magazine.
“During the excavation we found large numbers of keys to suitcases which Jews took to the gas chambers in the belief that they would need them after their ‘shower’” said Haimi, who has become an authority on Sobibor. “We also found remnants of gas masks which the Nazis used to remove bodies from the gas chambers.”
One of the dig’s most significant findings was a yellow star made of metal, the first of its kind found at Sobibor. Another important discovery was made in the spring of 2011, when a mass grave was discovered, the eighth found at Sobibor to date.
A steering committee whose members include Israel, Slovakia, Holland and Poland is currently convening to plan the construction of a new visitor’s center at Sobibor by October 2013, when the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Sobibor uprising will take place. The committee will base its work on the research of Haimi and Mazurek.