Sobibor Survivor Toivi Blatt Speaks at Oxford Chabad Society

Wednesday, 26 May, 2010 - 8:33 pm

P1030437.JPGOxford Chabad Society hosts Sobibor Revolt Survivor Thomas Toivi Blatt, 83, to address 500 across the UK

For pictures click here

Oxford Chabad Society hosted this week one of only five living survivors of Sobibor extermination camp, Thomas Toivi Blatt, at the David Slager Jewish student centre in Oxford.


The lecture was called the Esther Jacobs memorial lecture in her memory, who was killed is Sobibor in 1942 when she arrived on one of the transports from Holland.


The event brought the atrocity of Sobibor alive, as the evening brought together the survivor of the revolt in Sobibor, Toivi Blatt, together with the grandson of Esther Jacobs who died in Sobibor, Robert Slager.


The event began with an address by the grandson of Esther Jacobs, Robert Slager, father of David Slager, the principle supporter of the David Slager Jewish student centre in Oxford.


Robert Slager spoke in memory of his grandmother and asked, “Who can explain why the young and the elderly had to be murdered due to such hatred and propaganda?”


The event was also dedicated to the memory of Robert Slager's father, David Slager, who was killed in Auschwitz, and in whose name the David Slager centre is named after.


Thomas Toivi Blatt began his talk explaining how life was before the war in his small shtetl of Ishbitz. He described how the Nazis first appeared friendly to the Jews until the transports began. At first the Jews were told it was just replacement. It was only after two transports of 2,000 people disappeared without any trace that they decided to send a Polish peasant to follow the train to find out where it was going.



They discovered that they were travelling to Sobibor, located deep in the forest, near Lublin. The Polish peasant explained that transports were arriving periodically with thousands of people but despite the tens of


thousands people being brought to the forest, there didn't seem to be any saturation of the population in the forest, as would have been expected.


It became clear that Sobibor was a death camp and people were being killed upon arrival.


Then came the turn of Thomas Toivi Blatt and his family. They were loaded onto the wagons and started travelling. Toive related how he remembered his family and friends talking how they were confident that they would not be taken to Sobibor, as they had professions and were useful, but rather to one of the two labour camps on the way. However, as they passed the two labour camps they became aware that they were indeed being taken to Sobibor. For no apparent reason at 15 years old, with no profession, Toivi was selected as the camp commander's shoeshine boy, while his parents were taken to the gas chambers.



Toivi described in length the escape from Sobibor that, he said, was only possible due to a transport from the East of Russian Jewish prisoners of war. Prisoner soldiers from the West were not sent to the same camps as regular civilians but from the East the Nazis did not differentiate between them. The Jewish civilians who were untrained in arms and shooting would never have been able to revolt against the Germans without the participation of the strong trained Russian Jewish prisoners, he explained.


Close to a hundred students and community members attended the talk at the Oxford Chabad Society and many stayed on to ask questions.


The talk was part of a UK tour organised by Oxford Chabad Society that took Mr. Blatt to over 500 people across the UK, including Edgware Chabad House, Newcastle Hebrew Congregation, Lubavitch of South Manchester, Hasmonean Boys School in London, as well as the Oxford Chabad Society.


Rabbi Eli Brackman, director of the Oxford Chabad Society, chaired the evening in Oxford and pointed out that the memory of those who perished in places like Sobibor and Auschwitz live on in the rebuilding of Jewish life after the war with places like the Slager Jewish student centre, which provides a place for the celebration of Jewish life amongst students and young people, as well as community members.






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