Documented History

Wartime documents concerning Sobibór are very rare, but the few that do exist do not corroborate the orthodox narrative.

Chronologically the first of these few documents is a telegram sent by Hans Höfle to the SS headquarters in Berlin on 11 January 1943, which was intercepted and deciphered by the British (see the entry on Hans Höfle). From this document we learn that, by the end of 1942, 101,370 Jews had arrived at “S”, which probably stands for Sobibór. The message contains no indications regarding the fate of the deportees.

The next extant document dates from 5 July 1943. It is an order by SS chief Heinrich Himmler to Oswald Pohl, the head of the SS’s Economic Administrative Main Office (SS-Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt), stating:

“The Sobibór transit camp, located in the Lublin district, is to be converted into a concentration camp. A dismantling unit for captured enemy munitions is to be set up in the concentration camp.”

In Gutman’s 1990 Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Israeli historian Yitzhak Arad lied about this document by changing the unequivocal term “transit camp” used by Himmler into “extermination camp”:

“On 5 July 1943, Himmler ordered Sobibór to be closed as an extermination camp and transformed into a concentration camp.” (Gutman 1990, p. 1377)

On 15 July 1943, in his reply to Himmler, Pohl suggested not to convert the “Sobibór transit camp in the Lublin district”, because dismantling seized enemy munitions could be done without such a measure. Therefore, Pohl also referred to Sobibór as a transit camp.

Several German wartime documents mention an inmate uprising with subsequent mass escape from Sobibór on 14 October 1943. A day after the event, the commander of the Lublin security police stated in a telex that the inmates overpowered the guards and killed at least nine SS men and two foreign auxiliaries. Some 300 inmates had escaped, while those who didn’t manage to flee were either shot or detained inside the camp. After the local SS staff had been either killed or proven incompetent, camp security afterwards was taken over by military police and Wehrmacht units, who were also searching for the fugitives.

A later document dated 17 March 1944 gives a summary of the event, and states that one SS officer and 10 SS NCOs were killed by inmates on that day.

Propaganda History

On 1 July 1942, the Polish Fortnightly Review, published by the Polish government in British exile, contained an article which mentioned that the “majority of the Jews of Lublin were carried off over a period of several days to the locality of Sobibór, near Włodawa, where they were all murdered with gas, machine-guns and even by being bayoneted.”

In early July, Jewish chroniclers inside the Warsaw Ghetto (Emmanuel Ringelblum’s group) received news that Jews were being deported to a place called Sobibór. Rumors had it that this was another death camp like the one at Bełżec.

A report published on 7 September 1942 in the Polish Fortnightly Review briefly mentioned that “a new camp of tortures had been set up in Sobibór.” The newspaper Rzeczpospolita Polska had a similarly terse remark on 19 November 1942 by simply stating that the Sobibór Camp was “temporarily not in operation but is being enlarged.” A first generic references to the murder method used at Treblinka, Bełżec and Sobibór – “murdered, probably with gases” – is contained in an official report of the Polish Government in Exile dated 23 December 1942.

Throughout the year 1943, Polish underground periodicals and government reports repeatedly mentioned Sobibór very briefly as a death camp where most of the Jews deported there were murdered, but they gave no specifics. Hence, practically nothing was known about Sobibór.

A text written in 1945 by the Polish War Crimes Office does not contain any specifics either, other than the assertion that Jews had been murdered there. Although it was known that several hundred Jews had escaped from the camp in 1943, evidently none of them had given any useful specifics about the camp either. This situation had barely changed when the Polish government submitted its report to the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal (IMT). At least we learn from it that “thousands upon thousands of Jews were deported and killed in gas chambers.” During the IMT, the Soviet prosecutor merely mentioned Sobibór (misspelled as Sobibur in the transcript) in passing as a camp of large-scale exterminations (IMT, Vol. 7, p. 576).

Witness statements by former Sobibór inmates recorded during the early years after the war paint a peculiar image of the murder method allegedly used at that camp. This image is somewhat consistent, as the following table shows, which summarizes key features of these testimonies. This is complemented by the rather late account of Ya’akov Biskovitz (1961).

The table’s first column contains the witness’s name and the date when the testimony was recorded or published; the second column lists the claimed murder method; the third indicates how the executioners monitored the murder; and the fourth lists any auxiliary mechanical means.

While many of these witnesses disagree on various other issues, it is safe to say that, when it comes to the core of the claims, gas-chamber mass murder at Sobibór was committed primarily using chlorine gas; that the procedure was observed through windows in the roof; and most of all, that the gas chamber(s) had a collapsible floor allowing the discharge of the victims’ corpses into carts in the basement underneath. This is also reflected by Jewish and Polish summaries of these accounts of 1946.

Another common feature of most witness statements is the claim that they could not see or easily find out what was going on in the part of the camp where the extermination supposedly took place. This is referred to as Camp III or Sector III. This area was supposedly cordoned off, and entering it was forbidden to inmates living and working in other camp areas.

Witness Method Observation Mechanics

Ber(isch) Freiberg
10 Aug. 44, 27 Jul. 45

electric machine, filling gas tanks, chlorine

roof window

floors open, discharge bodies into carts below

Leon Feldhendler

chlorine and other gases

Zelda Metz


little window

floors open, discharge bodies into carts below

Josef Trajtag
10 October 1945


floors open, discharge bodies into carts below

Srul Fajgielbaum
5 November 1945

electric current

S. Podchlebnik
6 December 1945


Icek Lichtmann
18 December 1945


floors open, discharge bodies into carts below

Ursula Stern

gas through showers

floors open, discharge bodies

Chaim Engel
19 July 1946

gas through showers

floors open, discharge bodies

Salomea Hanel


Saartje Wijnberg
22 June 1946

gas through showers

floors open, discharge bodies into carts below

Alexander Pechersky
1946 (book)

a thick dark substance, spiraling from vents

roof window

floors open, discharge bodies into carts below

Hella Felenbaum-Weiss


killed while in trains during transit

Moshe Bahir

gas through showers

little roof window

floors open, discharge bodies into carts below

Ya’akov Biskovitz
5 June 1961

floors open, discharge bodies into carts below

For orthodox historians, the almost unanimous insistence of most Jewish witnesses on these bizarre and extremely unlikely collapsing floors with carts underneath poses a serious problem. They explain it away by blaming this “misinformation” on the fact that these inmates could not see what was going on in that part of the camp, hence relied on rumors and hearsay. However, that cannot be true either, because:

  • Several witnesses claimed that they had been informed by inmates in Camp III verbally or in writing about what transpired there: Moshe Bahir and Ber Freiberg, plus Stanisław Szmajzner (who had inmates killed with Zyklon B).
  • During the Eichmann Trial, Ber Freiberg claimed to have worked in Camp III next to the gas chamber, shaving thousands of naked women – although this might have been mere sexual fantasy, because in earlier testimonies he had said he had no access to Camp III.
  • Another witness had even claimed to have helped build the gas chamber, so he must have known – but that witness had built an electrocution chamber (Srul Fajgielbaum).

As in the case of the Treblinka Camp, it took again the radical intervention of a Polish investigative judge to put an end to this testimonial anarchy. Facing this wall of ludicrous witness statements inconsistent with what was claimed, or rather ordained, for other similar camps such as Belzec and Treblinka, Polish investigative judge Zdzisław Łukaszkiewicz decided in 1947 to ditch all witness accounts on Sobibór and to rewrite history from scratch. He decreed ex cathedra that mass murder at Sobibór occurred using engine-exhaust gases. No more chlorine, Zyklon B or electrocution; no more roof windows; and no more collapsing floors with carts beneath. Łukaszkiewicz simply copied the claims for the Belzec Camp, which he had described in a chapter just prior to writing about Sobibór. This was to become the pattern around which all subsequent official statements and scholarly publications on Sobibór would coalesce.

In stark contrast to all these Jewish testimonies stand statements made during and a few years after the war by Ukrainians, who either escaped from Sobibór or who were later accused by the Soviet judiciary of having not just collaborated with the Germans, which was already treason worth the death penalty; they were accused of having served as auxiliary forces at the Sobibór Camp, hence having played a crucial role in the claimed murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews. One can imagine what methods were used to make these prisoners “confess.”

The earliest testimony was recorded by a Soviet partisan unit. It is allegedly from an unnamed Ukrainian who was a Sobibór guard, but fled and joined Soviet partisans in 1943. The report describes a building with eight rooms, each holding 500 people. Gas from an engine was used to kill within 5-10 minutes. The bodies were then taken to a pyre, were placed on rails in sets of 1,000-1,500 people, and then, a “small fire” was lit underneath, upon which the corpses caught fire and burned all by themselves. Since the self-immolation of human corpses is physically impossible, it undermines this report’s credibility.

After the war, Stalin’s war against partisans fighting for Ukraine’s independence continued – also in the courtrooms. A show trial was prepared against Ukrainians accused of helping the Germans run their “death camps.” One Ukrainian arrested and charged in that context was Mikhail Razgonayev. During his interrogation on 20-21 September 1948, Razgonayev described the gas-chamber facility as a stone/concrete building with a corridor on one side and four gas chambers along the other. Each chamber had two hermetically closing doors, one from the corridor, the other to the outside to extract the bodies. An engine just outside the building supplied exhaust gas, which was piped into the chambers through showerheads. Except for the showerheads and the number of chambers, this version was close to what Łukaszkiewicz had decreed a year earlier.

Another unlucky Ukrainian auxiliary interrogated by the Soviets while in prison was Vassily Pankov. In his interrogation of 18 October 1950, he was made to described even the Buchenwald Camp as a death camp, which points at the methods used to extract his statement. According to Pankov, the gassing facility at Sobibór consisted of six gas chambers, and the engine supplying the asphyxiating exhaust gas was a diesel motor, with the execution lasting “an hour or more.”

Evidently, the Soviets had been informed by Łukaszkiewicz’s paper on how the mass murder was supposed to have been conducted at Sobibór, and they added their own spin with references to the evil German-invented diesel motor, as they had done during their 1943 show trials at Krasnodar and Kharkov (see the entries on gas vans and these two cities).

Equipped with testimonies like this, the Soviet Union conducted three propaganda show trials against former Ukrainian camp guards of Sobibór in the 1950s and 1960s. Except for one, all defendants were sentenced to death and executed.

In 1950, West Germany conducted two trials against defendants accused of having committed atrocities at the Sobibór Camp. The stated goal of Germany’s trials against suspected war criminals was always to show the world that Germany had learned its lesson and was repentant – among other things by mercilessly lashing out against those accused of atrocities. Anything witnesses for the prosecution claimed was considered true, whereas anything the defendants claimed was deemed a lie, if it contradicted the charges. Rigged this way, the affirmation of the orthodox narrative was assured, and that was all that mattered – not so much whether the defendants were sentenced or acquitted. During these two trials, neither the witnesses nor the defendants gave any description of the alleged mass-murder weapon, and the judges showed no interest in elucidating the matter either.

This deliberate ignorance changed only with the 1965/66 Sobibór Trial at Hagen, West Germany, with twelve defendants. Many defendants cooperated with the prosecution and court by giving descriptions of the alleged mass-murder facility along the line of what was already “known” at that time. Five of them were acquitted as a result. Erich Fuchs even described the engine used as “a heavy Russian gasoline engine (probably a tank or tractor engine) of at least 200 HP (V-engine, 8 cylinders, water-cooled).” As a thank you, he received only four years in prison for having aided in the murder of 79,000 persons. That is 26.6 minutes for every life taken. Other defendants had similar cheap verdicts. Only one defendant received a life-term but was released early. Erich Bauer, in prison for life after his 1950 trial, tried in vain to score points by drawing camp maps and gas-chamber plans.

Despite considerable contradictions between the defendant’s statements, the Hagen District Court described the gas-chamber facilities, operated with engine-exhaust gas, as follows:

  1. An earlier building on a concrete platform, a corridor and three chambers off to one side, each 4 m × 4 m in size, with two air-raid shelter doors, one from the corridor, the other for extracting the bodies.
  2. A solid later building, replacing the old building, had twice the number of chambers of the same size as the old chambers.

Finally, the second show trial against John Demjanjuk was staged in Munich between 2009 and 2011 for his alleged role as a guard of that camp. The trial did not yield any new insights into Sobibór.

Today, most orthodox scholars by and large follow the narrative developed by the Hagen Court, which followed the false lead of Łukaszkiewicz’s “history.”

Forensic Findings

The first forensic investigations at Sobibór were carried out by The Central Commission of Inquiry into German Crimes in Poland in 1945 and 1946. Soil mixed with ashes and human remains was discovered in what was assumed to be former mass graves, and rubble of a building was located which witnesses identified as the “gas chamber.” Neither the volume of the graves nor the possible quantity of ashes and human remains in them was determined.

In 1960, it was decided to turn the former campgrounds into a memorial. In that context, the site with the building foundations claimed to have been the gas chamber was covered with asphalt, and a memorial was erected nearby.

Forty years later, a second forensic investigation was launched, which was to last some 16 years. By that time, the location of the alleged gas chamber had been forgotten, and no one seems to have consulted the archives about the 1945/46 findings and the 1960 memorial plans either. Hence, it took almost 14 years, and the removal of the memorial’s roads and parking lots, to rediscover the foundation walls and other traces of the building labeled “gas chamber.” This discovery was declared sensational, although nothing about these building traces points at the purpose this structure once served.

Sobibor Camp, drone photo of building ruins
Drone photo of archaeological digs in the area of the former Sobibór Camp, with labels added, using the terms of the archeological team doing the excavation. The facility consisted of four eastern rooms with curved external walls; a corridor supported by poles; four western rooms of different size and shape than the eastern rooms; a staircase at the south; an additional small room at the north, here called “engine room,” although there is no evidence to support this claim. The brick bases along the western edge of the building may point at another corridor or ramp. There is no physical or documental evidence supporting the claim that the unearthed foundation walls belonged to a homicidal-gas-chamber building.
Death-Toll Propaganda
Victim numbers claimed for the Sobibór Camp


Samet Mottel


Zelda Metz, Stanisław Szmajzner


Nachman Blumental, Moshe Bahir


Chaim Engel and S. Engel-Wijnberg


Yuri Suhl


I. Ehrenburg/V. Grossman, A. Pechersky


Erich Bauer


Léon Poliakov


Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Wolfgang Scheffler


Raul Hilberg


Jules Schelvis


Karl Frenzel, 1987

50,000 – 70,000

Karl Frenzel, 1966

30,000 – 35,000

Jean-Claude Pressac

25,000 – 30,000

Hubert Gomerski, 1950

During that thorough investigation, a network of core samples was taken in a dense gridwork pattern to identify not only building ruins, but also areas of disturbed soil pointing at former mass graves. All in all, a maximum of some 15,050 m³ of disturbed soil was located. Leaving the top half meter as a soil cover, the effective volume for mass graves could have been a little over 13,000 m³.

The orthodoxy currently claims that some 80,000 corpses were buried at Sobibór by October 1942. Afterwards, new victims were allegedly burned right away on pyres. Burying 80,000 bodies in some 13,000+ m³ results in a quite reasonable packing density of roughly six bodies per cubic meter. Hence, the orthodoxy’s claims in this regard are physically possible.

However, if considering the number of corpses that are said to have been burned between October 1942 and October 1943 – meaning all the victims killed at Sobibór – and therefore the firewood needed for this, the situation changes. Experiences with large-scale open-air incinerations have shown that some 250 kg of fresh wood are needed for the outdoor cremation of one average human body.

Unfortunately, it is rather unclear how many victims in total were allegedly killed and thus burned, as there is no agreement among the orthodoxy in this regard (see the death-toll table). Taking the number given by Gutman’s 1990 and Rozett’s/Spector’s 2000 Encyclopedias of the Holocaust – 250,000 victims – results in the need for some 62,500 metric tons of green wood.

Hence, the camp needed a formidable collection of resources: space for the many huge pyres; the manpower needed to exhume the bodies; manpower to fell, transport and chop thousands of trees; manpower to build and maintain the pyres; and manpower to extract and scatter the ashes.

The maximum number of inmates – claimed by any witness – who were deployed at Sobibór to cut trees and bring them to the camp as firewood was 40. Data based on experience with forced laborers such as PoWs shows that they could fell not quite ⅔ of a metric ton of trees per day. This makes some 26 tons of wood for 40 inmates per day. To cut 62,500 metric tons would have taken them some 2,480 days of uninterrupted work, which is almost seven years. Alternatively, to get the work done in time, it would have required 272 dedicated lumberjacks.

Characteristics of Mass Graves and Mass Cremations at Sobibór
Claimed Found
no. of corpses 170,000 to 2.5 million scattered remains
space required (@ 6 bodies/m³) 28,330 to 416,700 m³ at most 13,000 m³
claimed cremation time October 1942 – October 1943, ca. 365 days
corpses cremated 466 to 6,850 per day
green wood needed (@ 250 kg/body) 116 to 1,710 metric tons per day
total green wood needed 42,500 to 625,000 metric tons

Add to this the fact that the Polish forests were tightly managed by the German occupational forces as precious resources for lumber and fuel. Hence, the SS couldn’t send droves of inmates to adjacent forests and cut them down without getting permission to do so. Of course, there is no documental or material trace of any such massive tree-felling activity having been applied for, been granted, let alone occurred. Air photos taken of the Sobibór area by German reconnaissance planes in 1944 show no areas denuded of trees in the camp’s vicinity either.

None of it has left a trace, either in witness statements, or in documents, or in the material and forensic record. Thus, we can say with confidence that none of it happened.

Current Orthodox Narrative

The current orthodox narrative about Sobibór is the result of the forgery perpetrated by Judge Łukaszkiewicz. He replaced the early narrative – dominated by many witness accounts about chlorine gas-chambers with roof windows and collapsible floors – with a narrative copied straight from the script developed for the Belzec Camp.

The Belzec narrative, in turn, had been the result of a similar manipulation, which consisted of splitting the camp’s history into two phases: an early phase with a small, wooden gas-chamber facility, and a late phase with a larger, brick-and-concrete facility. This was done not because there was evidence for it, but because the few witnesses for that camp contradicted one another as to the nature of the gassing facility. The orthodoxy therefore decided to “explain” that contradiction by splitting the camp’s history into two phases (see the entry on Belzec for details).

Although early testimonies don’t yield any trace for two different phases in the Sobibór Camp’s history either, that did not stop the orthodoxy from forcing a “consistency” between Belzec and Sobibór in this regard as well by simply declaring it a fact. That allowed them also to “explain” the contradictions among various testimonies as to the nature of the alleged gassing facility, although in this case, the many contradicting claims about the alleged mass-murder facility would require splitting the camp’s history into several dozen phases, not just two. Furthermore, most of them would have to have existed parallel in time, perhaps in parallel Holocaust universes.

Nowadays, witness testimonies recorded decades after the war are used to support this thesis of two camp phases. However, at that late a point in time, the split-personality dogma of all Aktion Reinhardt Camps had already become a dogma known and thus parroted by many witnesses.

There is one event in Sobibór’s history about which everyone agrees that it is true and real: the inmate uprising of 14 October 1943, with the subsequent escape of some 300 inmates. However, during that camp-wide inmate uprising, only such inmates escaped and survived who had been in those sectors of the camp that did not contain any mass-murder facilities.

Here we need to pause. The orthodoxy claims that Sobibór’s primary objective was to mass murder hundreds of thousands of deportees. Therefore, it is only logical that most of the work that had to be done in that camp would have been connected with that mass murder. Here are the tasks allegedly done:

  • cutting the hair of thousands of inmates;
  • removing precious-metal tooth fillings after the execution;
  • hauling the victims out of the chambers;
  • exhuming bodies still lying in older mass graves;
  • felling huge numbers of trees;
  • hauling the trees into the camp;
  • debranching and sawing or chopping them to manageable firewood sizes;
  • building large pyres with firewood and corpses;
  • maintaining the fires;
  • clearing the burned-down pyres;
  • sifting through large amounts of ashes in search of unburned pieces;
  • putting unburned remains back onto a pyre;
  • disposing of the ashes.

Therefore, if the orthodox narrative were true, by far the largest number of inmates in that camp would have been employed in that very mass-murder sector, the so-called Sector III. Furthermore, these inmates also should have had the highest motivation for an uprising, for obvious reasons. Hence, when a revolt broke out, it had to be expected that it mainly encompassed exactly these inmates. In consequence, most escapees and survivors, and thus witnesses, also should have consisted of these inmates.

In addition, these inmates would have had the strongest motivation to tell their tale, as they were the ones who had seen all the claimed horrors. Judicial authorities also would have had strong motives to locate and interrogate these witnesses, as they were the ones with first-hand knowledge.

However, we find the exact opposite to be true: not a single witness is known who claimed to have been employed in that elusive sector.

Using Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation

  • for the invisibility of events unfolding in Sector III;
  • for the systematically false claims about the alleged gas-chambers by self-proclaimed hearsay witnesses asserting to have received their information through “secret” messages from inmates in Sector III;
  • and for the total lack of any survivor, let alone witness, from that sector,

is the simple fact that Sector III never existed.

Finally, there is plenty of anecdotal, material and documental evidence indicating that many Jews deported to Sobibór ended up elsewhere and very much alive. One of the most prominent among them is orthodox Sobibór historian Jules Schelvis, who was deported to Sobibór himself as a young man. At Sobibór, he was assigned to a labor group and transferred elsewhere. For him, Sobibór was a simple transit camp, as it was for thousands upon thousands of other Jewish deportees.

(For more details on the Sobibór Camp, see Graf/Kues/Mattogno 2020; Mattogno 2021e, pp. 215-236, 273-295; see also the entry on resettlement with further references.)

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