A Promise at Sobi­bor: A Jew­ish Boy’s Sto­ry of Revolt and Sur­vival in Nazi-Occu­pied Poland

Philip Bialowitz with Joseph Bialowitz
  • Review
By – September 13, 2011
Strug­gling to remem­ber all of the details, Philip Bialowitz recounts the agony of Sobi­bor, his strug­gle to sur­vive and the pris­on­er revolt to his son, Joseph. Sobi­bor was not a tran­sit camp, nor a work camp. Its one and only pur­pose was mass mur­der, but Philip nev­er gave up hope or allowed him­self to degrade to a musel­man, some­one bare­ly alive. His father hon­ored life and human dig­ni­ty by nev­er aban­don­ing hope and by engag­ing in many forms of resis­tance while in the camp. Joseph notes that this instinct for sur­vival was not root­ed in fear, but by the mem­o­ry of a lov­ing fam­i­ly, deep friend­ships, a sup­port­ive reli­gion and a hope for a bet­ter life. On Octo­ber 14, 1943, the almost 650 pris­on­ers still alive at Sobibi­bor dared to plan a revolt. They killed SS offi­cers, fled through mine­fields and machine-gun fire into the sur­round­ing forests, farms, and towns; but only 42 of them, includ­ing the author, are known to have sur­vived until the end of the war. This is the sto­ry of where, how, and why it hap­pened. Sur­vival often depend­ed on assis­tance from coura­geous Gen­tile peo­ple out­side of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. His father and uncle, Sym­cha, were giv­en shel­ter after they escaped from Sobi­bor, by a coura­geous Pol­ish Catholic cou­ple who were farm­ers, Maria and Michal Mazurek. Notes.
Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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