Oral History

Chaim Engel describes his role in the Sobibor uprising

In 1939, as Chaim's tour in the Polish army was nearing its scheduled end, Germany invaded Poland. The Germans captured Chaim and sent him to Germany for forced labor. As a Jewish prisoner of war, Chaim later was returned to Poland. Ultimately, he was deported to the Sobibor camp, where the rest of his family died. In the 1943 Sobibor uprising, Chaim killed a guard. He escaped with his girlfriend, Selma, whom he later married. A farmer hid them until liberation by Soviet forces in June 1944.


There were two people were assigned to go to kill somebody in the office, a German in the office. And the last minute, one of them got scared and he didn't want to go. And I was there and I hear the story, and I knew already that there's ten to twelve Germans were already killed. So I know the...the ordeal I know already. We are already...unless we get out, otherwise we are dead. So Selma brought me a knife with a point, knife. I said I wanted to go. You see, from all these people, what people brought from the transport...utensils and all the things...there were a warehouse for it, and we're not far from this warehouse, so she went there in and she picked a knife, a pointed knife. She gave me a knife, and I went with the other fellow. I don't think I was a big hero or a big courageous man, but I, I figured it's self defense and survival. If I don't do it, it might spoil the whole thing. So I, I instinctively...there's no decision. It's not a decision. You just react, instinctively you react to that, and I figured, "Let us to do, and go and do it." And I went. I went with the man in the office, and we killed this German. With every jab, I said, "That is for my father, for my mother, for all these people, all the Jews you killed." And I...my knife slipped out...slid out from my hand and I cut myself.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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