Philip Bialowitz: a Holocaust survivor recounts his escape from a Nazi death camp

Sobibór - Mémorial à l'entrée du camp.

The entrance to the Sobibór death camp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a journalist, I get to meet interesting people for my stories. One interesting person whom I met is a Holocaust survivor, a man who not only was brave enough to escape a Nazi death camp, but who traveled to tell his story and write a book about it.

Philip Bialowitz is an octogenarian who visited the Wanaque Golden Age Club in Wanaque, NJ, on April 22, 2012. The Chabad Jewish Center -Upper Passaic County, located in Wanaque, asked Mr. Bialowitz to talk about the mass prisoner escape from Sobibór, where about 250,000 prisoners died here between 1942 and 1943. Some concentration camps like Dachau were labor camps, where at least the prisoners stayed alive by working. Sobibór was an extermination camp where prisoners basically went straight to the gas chambers.

After World War II, Bialowitz became a jeweler in New York City. For over two decades, he lectured in Europe and North America about the Revolt at Sobibór. He even wrote a book about his experience, “A Promise at Sobibór: A Jewish Boy’s Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland,” which can be purchased by clicking here. The book is available in English and Polish languages.

I met with Mr. Bialowtiz after his talk, and bought a copy of that book. When I asked him what kept him going despite the possible trauma he might have experienced from his hell, Mr. Bialowitz said it was because he promised the revolt leaders he will tell the story of the Revolt at Sobibór.

It was a considerably successful turnout — maybe 50 showed up at the lecture. But even if only five came, at least that’s five more people that learned about the Holocaust.

There are not that many Holocaust survivors alive today; they’re mandatory to tell this story as often as possible. Keeping silent about the Holocaust or any other genocide is unspeakable. It’s important for genocide survivors to speak out so that history doesn’t keep repeating itself.

It’s a humbling and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to meet a Holocaust survivor. To meet such a person is to have a connection with a history that you think may not have anything to do with you, but it does because as human beings, we’re all connected.

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

— Martin Niemoller

Mr. Bialowitz’s website is http://www.sobiborholocaustsurvivor.org

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