Oral History

Kurt Thomas describes the Sobibor uprising

Kurt Thomas was born in 1914 in Brno, Czechoslovakia. He and his family later moved to Boskovice, Czechoslovakia. Kurt worked in clothes manufacturing until 1936, when he joined the army. He was discharged from the army in February 1939 before the German takeover. Kurt, his sister, and parents were deported to Theresienstadt in March 1942. In April, Kurt was transported to the Piaski ghetto, where he worked on a farm outside of the ghetto. The other members of his family were deported to Sobibór, where they died. Kurt himself was also later deported to Sobibór,  escaping during the Sobibór uprising on October 14, 1943. He returned to Piaski, where he hid on the farm at which he had previously worked. He remained there until liberation, and immigrated to the United States in February 1948.

In this clip, Kurt describes the attack on deputy commandant Johann Niemann at the start of the Sobibor prisoner uprising on October 14, 1943.


At 4 o'clock, Untersturmführer Niemann had an appointment to fit a suit. Exactly 4 o'clock. And as I explained before, he came on a horse. The horse's name was Tsili. A brown mare. Her name was Tsili. There were four horses; but I remember Tsili, and I think there was another one, Ima. And he gets off the horse. And right to the gate, there was also a bakery and the baker's name was Israel. We called him "Srulek the baker." And he [NB: Niemann] says to the baker, who looked out, "Baker, hold the...keep the horse." And Srulek took the horse, and he's holding the horse. And he [NB: Niemann] walks just as slow as ever, with his hand on the back, and his whip; and enters the...the tailor shop. And as soon as he entered, they must have hit over the head and that was the end of Niemann. And Srulek knew that he wouldn't come out anymore; and as soon as he opened that door, he hit the horse on the rump and the horse turned around and run out of the yard and back to its stable, wherever it was. That was the only SS man I have seen walking to his death.


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