Oral History

Esther Raab describes planning for the uprising in Sobibor

Esther was born to a middle-class Jewish family in Chelm, Poland. In December 1942, she was deported from a work camp to the Sobibor killing center in occupied Poland. Upon arrival at Sobibor, Esther was selected to work in a sorting shed. She sorted clothing and the possessions of the people killed at the camp. During the summer and fall of 1943, Esther was among a group of prisoners in the Sobibor camp who planned an uprising and escape. Leon Feldhendler and Aleksandr (Sasha) Pechersky were the leaders of the group. The revolt took place on October 14, 1943. German and Ukrainian guards opened fire on the prisoners, who were unable to reach the main gate and thus had to try and escape through the minefield around the camp; about 300 escaped. Over 100 of them were recaptured and shot. Esther was among those who escaped and survived.


We were so deep in the woods that nobody could even know that something goes on there. So, we started thinking about uprising and about revenge, and I think that kept us going, although it was a silly thought, but, you know, that gave us the courage to survive, to do, because we planned, we planned. The plans weren't worth it, maybe in the beginning, five cents, but we planned and we saw ourselves outside, and we saw all the Nazis killed and this kept us going. And every day in 1943, probably in February or when, Leon Feldhendler was picked out from a transport and brought in. We were cousins by marriage, and after we told him what's going on, everybody who came in or they took him out, if they killed ten from us, they picked out another ten from the next transport. And we told him and he said, "We have to escape," and we asked how, he said, "There must be a way, and we gonna escape." And we tried, started planning, and going to a meeting, which only a few went because you had to be very careful, and coming back, you felt like you're doing something, you're planning something, you're trying something. If you'll succeed it would be wonderful. If not, you'll get a bullet in the back--it's better than going to the gas chambers. I promised myself I'll never go to the gas chambers, I'll start running, I'll start do--they have to waste a bullet on me. And we started organizing and talking and, it, it kept us alive again, you know, that maybe we'll be able to take revenge for all those who can't.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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