One of last surviving heroes of Sobibor uprising passes away at 96

Semyon Rosenfeld, one of the last survivors of the notorious death camp, died at age 96.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Semyon Rosenfeld, who took part in the 1943 prisoner revolt at the Sobibor death camp, died Monday at age 96 in the Israeli old age home where he had lived for the last 20 years.

A Ukrainian national, Rosenfeld had been drafted into the Artillery Corps of the Red Army upon finishing high school. He was captured during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Although the Nazis immediately killed most Jewish prisoners of war, the group he was in was sent as a whole to a camp in Minsk. When the city’s ghetto was liquidated two years later, he was sent along with the last ghetto inmates to the Sobibor death camp.

In a Yad Vashem video clip, the one-eyed former soldier talked about how he survived the initial entry to the camp.

“When we got out at the train platform, without thinking twice, I raised my hand and yelled out, “I’m a glazier,” he said. He was one of only a few who were not sent to the crematoria from the train.

By the time the group of Soviet prisoners reached the camp in September 1943, there was a Jewish underground in place. The addition of trained soldiers was most welcome.

A plan was hatched whereby SS officers would be lured into various workshops and storehouses and killed with axes and knives. Their weapons would be taken, phone lines cut and fire set to the camp so that the prisoners could make a break for freedom in the mass confusion.

However, “escaping was not at all an easy thing to do,” Rosenfeld explained. “Three rows of barbed wire surrounded the camp.” In addition, minefields surrounded the camp.

Rosenfeld was one of the Soviet prisoners armed with an axe during the revolt.

“I took the axe and ran behind a guard tower, where there was only one row of barbed wire,” he recounted. “I tried cutting it open but I couldn’t do it.” So when he saw people simply clambering over the fence, he joined them.

“It was three meters high and very barbed…but I was dressed well and had strong shoes,” he said, and described how he ran “like a soldier” and crawled and ran again approximately 150 meters to get to the surrounding forest, not even feeling a bullet that passed through his leg during his escape.

He was one of only about 300 who survived the initial run through the minefields that surrounded the camp, and an estimated 50 who survived the war.

After hiding in various places for the next 11 months, he was liberated by the Soviet army in July 1944 and immediately rejoined his fellow soldiers, fighting alongside them until he reached Berlin at the end of the war.

By profession a photographer, Rosenfeld emigrated to Israel with his wife and two sons in 1990.