Survivors tell story of death camp uprising, escape - East Valley Tribune: Events

Survivors tell story of death camp uprising, escape

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Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014 6:08 am | Updated: 3:43 pm, Fri Jan 10, 2014.

Firsthand accounts of the most successful uprising and mass breakout from a Nazi extermination camp during World War II will be showcased in Take A Stand: Resistance & Survival on Saturday at Chandler Center for the Arts.

Thomas Blatt and Philip Bialowitz will recount their stories of survival and escape from the Nazi death camp Sobibor, where a small group of Jewish prisoners overpowered their captors and freed 200 of the camp’s 600 slave laborers.

The presentation is among several events occurring in January as part of Chandler’s 2014 Celebration of Unity.

Located in the small village of Sobibor, Poland, the camp was surrounded by trees as well as a minefield 50 feet wide. Between 1942 and 1943, Jews were deported to Sobibor from ghettos in Poland, German-occupied Soviet territory, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Bohemia and Moravia, the Netherlands, and France.

The uprising at Sobibor took place on Oct. 14, 1943, and was one of the few camp uprisings successfully executed during the Holocaust. Prisoners started planning an organized resistance when news of other camps being liquated and dismantled got to Sobibor. With the arrival of Soviet-Jewish prisoners of war in late September 1943, Sobibor prisoners had new resources to effectively organize their uprising.

Blatt and Bialowitz are just two of eight living survivors of the Sobibor uprising. They lecture frequently to diverse audiences in North America and Europe about their experiences and the importance of mutual respect among people of different cultures and beliefs.

After emigrating to the United States in 1950, Bialowitz first lived in Columbus, Ohio, working in dentistry, before settling in New York City, where he started a family and a jewelry business prior to retiring. In 2009, Bialowitz was featured in a series of reports about Sobibor that were broadcast worldwide by the BBC World Service.

The story of the events at Sobibor also were dramatized in a 1987 CBS television mini-series, “Escape From Sobibor,” which was nominated for five Emmy Awards.

Blatt has dedicated his life since the war to accurately preserving the memory of the more than 250,000 prisoners who were murdered at Sobibor. He started lecturing about the Holocaust as far back as 1962. He has authored two books, “Sobibor — The Forgotten Revolt” and “From the Ashes of Sobibor,” plus produced two documentaries relating to the Holocaust and the Second World War.

Take A Stand: Resistance & Survival is presented by the East Valley Jewish Community Center in partnership with the City of Chandler, the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival, the Phoenix Holocaust Survivor’s Association, Generations After, J2 Media, and the Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix.

Proceeds will be used to further Holocaust education in the Valley and contribute to the building of a Center for Holocaust Education & Human Dignity in Chandler. For information, call (480) 897-0588.


If you go

What: Take A Stand: Resistance & Survival, a recounting of escape from the Nazi death camp Sobibor by two of eight living survivors of the Sobibor uprising.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11

Where: Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave.

Cost: Tickets are $10 for the general public and $7 for veterans and active military.

Information: (480) 897-0588 or evjcc.org

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