Buried Nazi gas chambers discovered by archaeologists in Poland
Nazi forces tried to erase all traces of the camp's existence. An
asphalt road was laid over the top of the site after SS leader
Heinrich Himmler ordered its destruction.
The orders came following an uprising against the camp’s staffers on October 14, 1943. Some 12 SS officers were killed in the plot, which involved prisoners telling camp guards they had salvaged well-made or expensive items in order to lure them to a place where they could be slaughtered.
In the subsequent chaos, some 300 of the 600 Jewish inmates broke free. However, many were shot while attempting to escape. By the end of WWII, there were approximately 50 survivors.
The archaeologists explored the site beneath the road and found rows of bricks, four pieces deep. They have determined that this is where the walls of the gas chambers once stood.
“Finally, we have reached our goal – the discovery of the gas chambers. We were amazed at the size of the building and the well-preserved condition of the chamber walls,” one archaeologist, Yoram Haimi, told Reuters. Haimi himself had two uncles killed at the camp during the war.
Among the items discovered was a wedding ring, bearing the
inscription: “Behold, you are consecrated unto me,” in
The discoveries may also help establish a more precise estimate on the number of people killed at the camp, as the wall identifications have helped with calculating how big the camp was.
“The whole former camp is one huge crime scene,” Tomasz Kranz, director of Poland's Majdanek Museum, told the Telegraph.
Haimi has previously expressed similar sentiments.
“I feel like I am an investigator in a criminal forensic laboratory,” Haimi told Haaretz in August 2012 as the dig was underway. “After all, it is a murder scene.”
Unlike other camps that attempted to masquerade as either prison or labor camps, Sobibor and its neighbors – Belzec and Treblinka – were specifically death camps. Inmates were gassed to death very shortly after entering.
However, there is less information about Sobibor’s operations, due to its destruction by the Germans.
Another archeologist – Wojciech Mazurek – said that there had been eight gas chambers.
“The extermination of people took place there; murder by smoke from an engine that killed everyone within 15 minutes in these gas chambers, in torment, shouting,” he told Reuters Television.
“It is said that...the Nazis even bred geese in order to drown out these shouts so that prisoners could not have heard these shouts, these torments.”