Thomas Blatt in 1940s
April 15, 1927 |
|Known for||Survivor of the Sobibor extermination camp uprising|
Thomas "Toivi" Blatt (born April 15, 1927) is a Polish-American writer and speaker, who at the age of 16 was one of the few Jewish people who survived the uprising and escape from the Sobibor extermination camp in October 1943, when more than 300 escaped. Most were captured by the Germans and killed.
Early life and education
In 1942, Blatt and his family, and about 400 other Jewish people from Izbica, were transported by the Germans to Sobibor, which was built as an extermination camp. All of Blatt's family were killed there, and most of the people from his village. In total, an estimated 250,000 Jews from Poland, France and the Netherlands were killed there, as well as 1,000 Poles.
Escape from Sobibor
Blatt was among the 300 prisoners who participated in an uprising in October 1943 and escaped from Sobibor. While fleeing the SS at the age of 16, Blatt was betrayed by a farmer who was hiding him, and was shot in the jaw. He escaped and survived the war, but still carries that bullet. After the mass escape, the Germans closed and dismantled the camp. They bulldozed over the site and planted numerous trees to hide it. The site has been commemorated since the end of the war.
In 1958 Blatt emigrated to Israel and later to the United States. In the late 1970s and 1980s, he worked with Richard Rashke, an American author, to locate and interview Sobibor survivors for the latter's book, Escape from Sobibor (1983), about the revolt at the camp.
Blatt was also doing his own research. In 1983 he interviewed Karl Frenzel, a German who had been third in command at Sobibor, after his release from prison on appeal. Frenzel had been convicted in court and sentenced to life in prison for his actions at the camp. After serving 16 years, he was released on appeal due to a technicality. Blatt believes his interview (included below as "A Confrontation with a Murderer") was the first time after World War II that an extermination camp internee spoke face-to-face with an accused camp staff member.
The award-winning 1987 TV movie, Escape from Sobibor, was adapted from the 1983 book by Rashke. It portrays the events at the death camp Sobibor. Blatt served as a technical adviser on the film. The revolt leaders Leon Feldhendler and Alexander Pechersky, Blatt, and other camp prisoners were played by actors. Escape from Sobibor gives varied accounts of the Jewish escapees.
Blatt later wrote two books about Sobibor. His memoir, From The Ashes of Sobibor (1997), is about his experience in the camp, including his part in the plot that led to the 600-prisoner revolt on October 14, 1943. He also wrote about his life before the war, leading up to the German occupation of his village, Izbica, in Poland, and the transport of him and his family to the camp.
He also wrote Sobibor, the Forgotten Revolt (1997), a history based on his years of research. He has adapted this as a website by the same name, featuring links to his documentation of the events.
Blatt currently lives in Santa Barbara, California.
- Thomas Blatt, "A Confrontation with a Murderer", 1983, Sobibor - The Forgotten Revolt
- Sobibor - The Forgotten Revolt, website by Thomas Blatt
- Thomas Blatt, "A Confrontation with a Murderer", 1983, Sobibor - The Forgotten Revolt website
- Interview of Thomas Blatt, WMRA]
- Escape from Sobibor at the Internet Movie Database
- Thomas Blatt at the memorial site of Sobibor, October 2010
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