In the late summer of 1943, rumors arose among Sobibor’s Jewish work prisoners that the camp would be disbanded or perhaps diverted. These rumors were fueled by the reduced supply of transports. Despite the hopeless situation, the prospect of possible liquidation caused great concern, for if Sobibor were to be disbanded, the work Jews would suffer the same fate as that of the last Jews from Belzec: a ruthless execution. Therefore, a small group led by the charismatic Polish Leon Feldhendler had secretly formed in the camp. They brooded on a possible escape. However, it remained just talk because there was no one to set up a complicated organization. That changed on Sept. 22, 1943, when a transport of Jews arrived from Minsk, including prisoner-of-war Jewish Soviet soldiers. One of those selected for work upon arrival in Sobibor was lieutenant Aleksander Pechersky. He was soon approached by Feldhendler to contribute his thoughts. Pechersky designed an audacious plan in a short time. An essential part was, first to eliminate as many SS as possible and then, after regular roll call, to leave the camp in an orderly fashion, so that the numerous Ukrainian guards on the watchtowers would not become suspicious.

It was carried out under his and Feldhendler’s leadership on Oct. 14, 1943, but did not fully succeed. Nevertheless, 365 Jews were able to escape the camp, 47 of whom survived the war. Those who remained in the camp feared they had no chance of survival outside the barbed wire in a foreign and hostile country, because they were not proficient in Polish. Or they did not have enough guts. It was the first time in the history of World War II that 12 SS and two guards were killed in an extermination camp through cooperative Jewish resistance and ingenuity. After the uprising, about 300 working Jews taken from Treblinka erased all traces of the camp, then were killed.

On the website features an extensive interview with Alexander Pechersky, conducted in 1984.

The Sobibor Foundation commemorates the uprising each year with a special event. More information can be found here.