Last living survivor of Sobibor uprising dies at 96

In 2018, the Ukrainian Ambassador Hennady Nadolenko awarded Rosenfeld the Ukrainian Order of Merit III degree for his brave actions during World War II.

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June 4, 2019 00:47
2 minute read.
Sobibor death camp

Sobibor death camp. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Semion Rosenfeld, the last survivor of the 1943 Sobibor Uprising, died Monday at the retirement home where he was living, Maariv reported. He was 96.

Born in 1922 in the Ukrainian town of Ternovka, he joined the Red Army in 1940 to fight the Nazis, but became a prisoner of war in 1941. He was sent to a concentration camp in Minsk, and in 1943 was deported from there to Sobibor, a Nazi extermination camp built and operated by the SS during World War II in German-occupied in Poland.

In his memoir The Revolt in Sobibor, Alexander Peczorski, an organizer and commander of the Sobibor uprising, describes the harrowing details of their escape. Eleven SS guards were killed during the uprising, as well as several Ukrainian guards. Having cut all forms of communication, including the telephone wires, the rebels stormed the barbed wire fences and main entrance to the extermination camp, attacking SS guards with axes and knives.

Some 300 people managed to escape, but were either killed while crossing the minefield that surrounded the camp, or killed by Nazis during the pursuit. Only 47 people managed to survive the uprising in the end.

Rosenfeld survived in the forest with a small group of escapees. In 1944, following the liberation of Chelm by the Red Army, he rejoined and fought as a member of the 39th Guards’ Motorized Rifle Division, which helped take Berlin.

He moved to Israel in 1990 from Ukraine.

In 2018, the Ukrainian Ambassador Hennady Nadolenko awarded Rosenfeld the Ukrainian Order of Merit III degree for his brave actions during World War II. He was also honored in 2013 by then-Polish president Bronislaw Komarowski with the Order of the Cavalier Cross, the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter reported.

Following the announcement of his death, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog “expressed much sadness.”

“I am very saddened by the news of the death of the Holocaust survivor Semion Rosenfeld,” he said in a statement. “Semion fought the Nazis in the ranks of the Red Army and was then sent to Sobibor death camp as a prisoner of war, where he saw death every day before his eyes until the day of the famous uprising.”


“It is our duty to remind and pass from generation to generation the story of the life and heroism of Semion Rosenfeld and all his contemporaries,” Herzog continued. “The Amigur company of the Jewish Agency has been a home for Semion for many years, and the Jewish Agency as a whole takes part, this [Monday] morning, in the family’s sorrow.”

“My condolences to his family and his friends,” he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a short statement on Facebook eulogizing Rosenfeld.

“Semion Rosenfeld, a Holocaust survivor and the last survivor of Sobibor, has passed away,” he wrote. “Semion Rosenfeld was born in 1922 in a small village in Ukraine. He joined the Red Army, was captured by the Nazis but managed to escape from the death camp and continued to fight the Nazis.”

“May his memory be a blessing,” the prime minister added.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid tweeted that he saluted “the memory of Semion Rosenfeld, a Holocaust survivor who took part in the uprising in the Sobibor extermination camp where a quarter of a million Jews were murdered.”

“He died today at the age of 96, may his memory be blessed; we are worthy of his death [occurring] in our lives,” he wrote.

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