Thomas Blatt in 2013 during a return to Sobibór marking the 70th anniversary of the camp uprising
April 15, 1927
Izbica, Second Polish Republic
|Died||October 31, 2015
Santa Barbara, California
|Known for||Survivor of the Sobibor extermination camp uprising|
Thomas "Toivi" Blatt (born Tomasz Blatt; April 15, 1927 – October 31, 2015) was a Polish-American writer and speaker, who at the age of 16 was one of the few Jewish people to survive an uprising and escape from the Sobibor extermination camp in October 1943, when around 200 escaped. 150 were captured and killed by search squads and around 50 survived until the end of the war. Following World War II he settled in the United States.
Thomas "Toivi" Blatt was born on April 15, 1927 to a Jewish family in Izbica, Poland. He had a brother. On April 28, 1943, Blatt and his family, with about 400 other Jewish people from Izbica, was transported by the Germans to Sobibor, built as an extermination camp. All of Blatt's family were killed there, along with most of the people from his village. In total, an estimated 250,000 Jews from Poland, France and the Netherlands were murdered at Sobibor as well as 1,000 Gentile Poles.
Escape from Sobibor
Blatt was among the 300 prisoners who participated in an uprising on October 14, 1943 and escaped from Sobibor. While fleeing the SS at the age of 16, Blatt was shot in the jaw. He escaped and survived the war, but still carried 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 from Europe to Israel and later to the United States. In the late 1970s and 1980s, he worked for Richard Rashke, an American journalist and author, to locate and interview Sobibor survivors. Rashke wrote Escape from Sobibor (1983), about the revolt at the camp.
Blatt also did 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 at trial 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 survivor spoke face-to-face with a 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 300-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 adapted this as a website by the same name, featuring links to his documentation of the events.
- Roberts, Sam (November 2, 2015). "Thomas Blatt, Who Escaped Death Camp During Revolt, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- Thomas Blatt, "A Confrontation with a Murderer", 1983, Sobibor - The Forgotten Revolt
- Blatt, Thomas Toivi (2000), Sobibor – The Forgotten Revolt (Google Books snippet view), H.E.P., pp. 3, 92, ISBN 0964944200
- Vanessa Gera, Thomas Blatt, survivor of escape from Sobibor dies at 88. Associated Press, Nov. 2, 2015.
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