Oral History

Chaim Engel recalls the Sobibor uprising and his escape

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.


We knew there were already Germans killed. We knew already it's going on, so we just hoped that nobody unexpectedly comes to a place where he doesn't supposed to come and finds out what happened. If that is it, then we all killed and lost. So somehow we are lucky with that. The...we killed these Germans wherever we worked and, uh, we...everything went according to, to the plan, 'til we came to the main gate. Now we could... people ran... ran all over, so the whole camp knew already what's going on by then, so some ran on the mines, got killed. Some people didn't ran at all. They gave up. They didn't want to run. They just gave up. They, they just, waited 'til they get killed. They...but the younger people, most of them, and whoever was courageous enough to run, they ran away. And then a lot ran on the main gate. Now we started to run and we were next to a barrack and then I saw [SS Sergeant Karl] Frenzel with a machine gun, and he started to shoot. And more people were running and I, I wanted to hold back because afraid for the machine gun, and I figured, "Here is dead. Here is maybe something." So I pulled Selma's hand and we ran through and somehow, some fell, and we made it through the gate.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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