Thomas Blatt



Thomas Blatt was sent to the Sobibór extermination camp in 1943. He was one of only 300 Jews who managed to escape the camp after the prisoner uprising of in October 1943.

Thomas Blatt was born as Toivi Blatt in 1927 in Izbica, a town in the Lublin region then almost completely populated by Jews. His father Leon, a former soldier of the Polish Legions, ran a shop. His mother Fajga took care of the house and her younger son Hersz. 

After the Second World War broke out, Izbica was occupied by the Soviet troops but in October 1939 the area was taken over by German forces. In 1941,  Izbica became one of the transit ghettos, where the occupiers deported Jews to from many European countries. 

In April 1943, Toivi and his family were sent to the Sobibór extermination camp. After selection, his relatives were directed to the gas chamber, while he was assigned to a labour commando. 

On 14 October 1943, an uprising was staged in the camp. Blatt was one of the 300 prisoners who managed to escape. After the uprising, the German staff liquidated the camp to cover their crimes — between May 1942 and October 1943, they had murdered approximately 180,000 Jews from all over occupied Europe.  

Toivi went in to hiding under his Polish name Tomasz. He was in danger from the German occupiers, but also from the Poles: “A peasant agreed to hide us for money, but after some time he came with his helpers and shot at us. I still have a bullet under my jaw. I pretended to be a corpse, and when they went to search our things, I got up and ran away." 

In 1958 Blatt left for the USA, where he used the name Thomas. 

"I am here because of the oath I took in Sobibor — when in the noise of screams and the roar of machine guns, I prayed: God, let me live and I will tell!" said Thomas Blatt to the students he met to pass on his testimony. His memoirs became the basis for three books and the film Escape from Sobibor

Thomas testified in the trials of the Nazis whose crimes he witnessed: Kurt Engels (1958), Karl Frenzel (1965) and Ivan Demjanjuk (2011). Engels committed suicide during his trial, Frenzel was sentenced to life imprisonment but only served 16 years and Demjanjuk died before his conviction of five years in prison could become final. 

Thomas Blatt died in 2015.