How exactly did people try to escape from camps?

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How exactly did people try to escape from camps?

Post by RACPISA » 14 Sep 2003 21:44

Is there any information out there about how exactly people managed to escape from concentration camps or death camps?

Thanks so much to anyone who can give me some info. :)

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Post by Robert Barrett » 15 Sep 2003 07:47

I don't know about the actual camps but a few people escaped from the Ensatgruppen (sp) fireing squads by pretending to be dead. Later they would crawl out from under dead bodies and flee. Sobibor (sp) was a planned escape by many inmates.

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Post by Bernard » 15 Sep 2003 09:07

I know few books about that but unfortunatly for you it's in french. Many of those tried to escape were speaking the language of the country they were. They could try to escap while at work or use a german uniform. I saw few cases in books but they were usually taken after a short time.

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Post by Mrks » 15 Sep 2003 12:02

I remeber our history teacher telling us about a young boy (named Oscar if my memory serves me well) escaping by going into the waste tank of a latrine. He had read it in someones memoirs he said. This is in some movie too so I don't know how reliable is this "fact".

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Post by Eugene (J. Baker) » 18 Sep 2003 12:16

when i was in school i saw and talk with the man who escaped stealing plane.
Famed pilot Mikhail Devyataev, 85, Hero of the Soviet Union, has died in Kazan. In 1945 he escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in an enemy aircraft.

Mikhail Devyataev was born on July 8, 1917 in Torbeevo, a worker settlement in Mordovia and was the 13th child in a large family. Before the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) he graduated from the Kazan river transport technical secondary school as navigator. Coincidentally, he got training at the Kazan amateur flying school and in two years received a diploma from the Orenburg military pilots air school.

From the first days of the war the young pilot took part in the action, was flight commander in a fighter air regiment, made 180 sorties, downed 9 enemy planes personally and 16 in air battles, was wounded two times.

In an aerial combat above Lvov on July 13, 1944, Mikhail was shot down. He bailed out from the flaming plane and was taken prisoner. Kept in several Nazi concentration camps, such as the notorious Sachsenhausen, Devyataev eventually got into the Usedom island, where V-1 and V-2 rocket bombs were produced and tested. The prisoner workforce was doomed.

In February 1945, together with ten other prisoners, Mikhail seized a Heinkel aircraft and escaped on it from the " island of death ". The ex-prisoners crossed the front line and passed to the Soviet command strategic information on the top-secret Usedom production facility.

In the Soviet Union this unprecedented heroic feat was not duly valued. Mikhail Devyataev and the other participants in the escape got under a repressive action as ex-prisoners.

In 1957, thanks to the intervention of Sergei Korolev, famed designer of spaceships, Mikhail Devyataev and his associates were rehabilitated. Mikhail got the Hero of the Soviet Union title.

Until his last days, he lived in Kazan, capital of Tatarstan, on the Volga. He was captain of the river fleet, in charge of the crews of the first-ever Russian air-cushioned ships Raketa-001 and Meteor-002.

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Re: How exactly did people try to escape from camps?

Post by giles120 » 01 Feb 2004 00:49

There were an estimated 667 escapes from the camps of which some 76 were successful. The term 'successful' is not defined. Does it means that the escapees survived the war, or, successfully escaped from the camp, but were later re-captured and shot/caught in another round up?
The figures are not broken down into death camp/concentration camp escapes.

Chelmno Death Camp:-

Yakov Grojanowski arrived at Chelmno on the 5th January 1942. He was selected to work as a grave digger. On the 19th January, he boarded the bus with other grave diggers taking them to the burial site. On the journey, he removed a pane of glass from the window of the bus and climbed out(asking the other grave diggers to replace the pane). Grojanowski reached the town of Grabow and told Rabbi Szulman what was happening at Chelmno. The Rabbi wrote to his family in the Lodz
ghetto, but his letter never arrived. Grojanowski then left Grabow and headed for Warsaw to warn the 250,000 Jews. Grojanowski did not survive the war.

Michael Podklebnik escaped from Chelmno sometime around January 15th 1942(do not know exact date). On January 12th, he was forced to bury the Jews of his village of Bugaj including his wife, son and daughter. He jumped from the truck taking the grave diggers to work. I do not know whether Podklebnik survived the war.

On January 17th 1942, in retribution for the escape of Abraham Rois, 16 Jews are laid down on top of those scores of gassed Jews that they just buried and shot. I have no further information on Rois.

Belzec Death Camp:-

The first recorded escape from inside the camp was by a young lad, about 17 years old, who came into Belzec on a road transport from Lubycza Krolewska in February, 1942. He was one of a group of Jews rounded-up to work in the final construction of the camp. He had been employed for a few days in the camp cutting down trees. A few days later, the other worker Jews were taken into a barrack while the boy hid himself and later escaped. Apparently, he was later re-captured by the SS and shot. I do not have the source for the information relating to his re-capture, and do not know his name.

The second recorded escape from Belzec, was from one of the first transports that arrived from the town of Zolkiew in March, 1942. Two women, Mina Astman and Malka Talenfeld, had taken advantage of the inexperience and confusion in the early transports and secreted themselves in a ditch and waited. During the night they crept through the perimeter wire and made their way back home to Zolkiew where they reported what they had seen.

Another escape was by a Jew from Piaski who arrived in March, 1942, and was part of the Sondokommando in the gas chamber area. This Jew, suddenly broke away and forced himself through the surrounding barbed-wire fencing and ran off. He was quickly hunted down, brought back to the camp and shot.

On the 11 April, 1942, the Welsztein family from Zamosc, including their 18 year-old daughter and 13 year-old son were transported to Belzec. As the transport was preparing to undress, the boy somehow got to the communal latrine where he hid in the pit until evening. I do not know how he actually got out of the camp. Two days later, on 13 April, 1942, he returned to Zamosc where he told the Judenrat what he had seen.

Another escape from the latrine in Belzec was by a dentist from Krakow in June, 1942. Bachner was part of a large transport from Krakow of several thousand Jews. At the assembly point, Bachner hid in the latrine waste pit. Up to his eyes in human waste and flies, he remained there for two days before escaping from the camp. After two weeks he returned to the Krakow ghetto where he told the Judenrat of what he had seen. There is no record of what happened to Bachner after his return, but one of the indictments against Amon Goeth (Commandant of Plaszow) was the shooting of the family Bachner in Plaszow in 1943.

In October, 1942, the Rabbi of Blazowa, Israel Spira, was transported from Janowska to Belzec and was fortunate to be selected for the clothing work kommando. After a few days he attached himself to the escort that was taking a train load of clothing back to the Janowska camp. In Janowska, Rabbi Spira (much like Reder ) detached himself from the escort and mingled with the other Jews. When he loitered near a coffee stall he was recognised by other Jews who protected him. Rabbi Spira survived Janowska and subsequent deportations to Belzec. His wife, Pearl, was murdered in Belzec 18 October, 1942.

The four year-old child of Sara Ritterbrand was spirited away in a bread basket by her uncle (Sara's brother living in Belzec as an aryan) from the camp. He was later caught and shot in the presence of Sarah. The child survived in the care of local Ukrainians until after the war. Sarah survived and returned to Belzec after the war she was re-united with her daughter.

Rudolf Reder escaped from Belzec in November 1942 after four months in the camp. From the sworn affidavit of Reder;
"On 17 August 1942, I was deported to the Belzec extermination camp. We were unloaded and had to strip naked. Specialists were asked to step forward. I reported as a mechanic. Only eight men were left behind; the rest were immediately gassed. There were about 4,500 people on the transport."
He was able to escape when a SS man fell asleep while watching him
load tin in a car in Lvov. He slid out of the car appearing as if he was arranging the tin sheets. He remembered where a Polish woman lived
and went there where she hid him. He survived the war.

Chaim Hirszman a metal worker was one of the last prisoners in Belzec,
who with over 300 other work-Jews were taken to Sobibor where they were shot on arrival. Hirszman broke out of the train en-route and survived the war. On 19 March 1946, the day after Hirszman had given evidence to the Jewish Historical Commission in Lublin he was shot down by anti-semites believed to be the AKW (Armia Krakowa).

Treblinka Death Camp:-

Simcha Binem Laski, was sent to Treblinka from Warsaw at the end of July 1942. Four days after he arrived in the camp, Simcha managed to escape. He got back to the Warsaw ghetto in the beginning of August. I do not know how he escaped, or if he survived the war.

On September 13, 1942, Avraham (Jacob) Krzepicki escaped from Treblinka after having been in the camp for eighteen days. He, too, managed to reach the Warsaw ghetto and there provided testimony as to what was occurring in Treblinka. (Krzepicki was a member of the Jewish Fighting Organization and took part in the fighting in "the brush makers" area in the Warsaw ghetto). Several of the escapees from Treblinka participated in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, among them David Nowodworski, member of the Jewish Fighting Organization and commander of a group of fighters, and Lazar Szerszein, who was also the commander of a group of fighters. I do not know how he escaped, or if any of the men mentioned above survived the war.

At the end of October or beginning of November 1942, two Treblinka prisoners, assisted by others, managed to escape on the freight train carrying the personal belongings of the murdered out of the camp. I do not know their names, or if they survived the war.

At the beginning of winter, under cover of darkness, another four prisoners escaped. They slipped out of the barrack, cut the barbed-wire fence and got away. As an immediate reprisal twenty sick people were taken out and shot on the spot. I do not know their names or if they survived the war.

There were escape attempts also from the camp's extermination area(TII). A group of seven people succeeded in digging a tunnel from the barracks near the camp's southern fence. The escape was carried out on the night of December 31, 1942. Five men succeeded in getting through the tunnel and out beyond the fences, but then the Ukrainian sentry noticed them and opened fire. The entire camp was called into action. The prisoners were removed from the barracks and inspected. Five were missing. It was snowing that night, but the Germans and Ukrainian guards went in pursuit of the escapees. The escapees had reached a nearby village, but were caught while trying to rent a cart. One succeeded in escaping, but the other four were caught after a struggle. One was shot on the spot, and the other three were brought back to the camp. I do not know the name of the man who escaped the re-capture, or whether he survived the war.

During the existence of the Treblinka camp scores of people did succecd in escaping, but scores of others were caught, tortured and executed. The possibilities for escape were greater in the early months(this applied to Belzec as well which in its early days March/April/May 1942 was very disorganised and chaotic), and it was then that most of the successful escapes were carried out. As time passed escape became more difficult and more complicated. Security measures were improved, and the system of barbed-wire fencing around the camp was reinforced and improved. There were three fences: an inner barbed-wire fence 3-4 meters high and camouflaged by tree boughs; a second network of tank obstacles laid with barbed-wire fencing; and a third, outer barbed-wire fence. In addition, parts within the camp itself were also fenced, including the prisoners' quarters. Six guard towers were erected, one of them in the center of the extermination area, and, as a result, there was constant observation of what was going on in the camp during the day.

Sobibor Death Camp:-

The revolt of 14th October 1943 is well documented by numerous sources including Richard Rashke's 'Escape From Sobibor'. In summary, the worker Jews lured key SS and Ukrainian staff into shops in camp I and murdered them. Having killed a number of key personnel, the Jews assembled for roll call where the signal for escape was given. Although many escapees were shot running from the camp, killed in the mine field surronding the camp or subsequently rounded up by SS and police task forces, sixty four made a successful escape.

Majdanek Death/Labour Camp:-

No named escapees, but Resistance movements, among them the "Orzel" (Eagle) organization, were active in the camp at various periods, and several escapes were arranged by individuals and groups. Polish aid organizations, such as the Polish Red Cross and the Rada Glowna Opiekuncza (Central Welfare Council), as well as the Polish resistance movement, extended help to the Polish prisoners.

Auschwitz Birkenau Death Camp:-

On April 5th 1943, a Jewish inmate, Siegfried Lederer escaped from Birkenau and makes it safely to Czechslovakia. He warns the Elders of the Council of Theresienstadt about Auschwitz. I do not know how he escaped, or if he survived the war.

On April 7 1943, two other Jewish inmates escape from Auschwitz-Birkenau and make it to Czechoslovakia. A report based on the escapees’ descriptions of the camp and estimates of the numbers killed there is sent to European Jewish leaders and relief organizations; few believe the accuracy of the report’s contents and no substantive action is taken to rescue the Jews. I do not know how they escaped, or if they survived the war.

On June 24th 1944, a Pole and a Jewish girl in love escape. The girl escapes through an airlock in one of the gas chamber waiting rooms. Some time later(date unknown), they are re-captured and returned to Auschwitz where they are tortured. Just as they are about to be hung before Jews forced to watch, the girl slashes her wrists with a razor blade.
This enraged the SS who shot her dead.

In November 1944, Oscar Schindler rescued a transport of 300 Jewish women when the train they were on was accidentally routed to Auschwitz Birkenau. He secured their release by bribing either Sturmbannführer Richard Baer as Kommandant of Auschwitz 1 or Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer as Kommandant of Birkenau(before he became Kommandant of Belsen on December 2, 1944). This was the only shipment out of Auschwitz during WW2.

The above examples show that escape was possible. Mass deception and secrecy by the SS instilled in many Jewish minds the belief that they were a valuable and needed workforce. As a result, many realised their fate too late. There were certain groups/individuals who were willing to help(usually at a price as they were putting themselves at risk), but often those who had promised simply took the money and disappeared.


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Post by mars » 01 Feb 2004 07:03

There was another excape from the Sobibor death camp, two Polish Jews,Podchlebnik and Hoenigman, were among a Waldkommando sent to nearby forest to cut trees down for build new house in the camp, normaly around the noon, an Ukrainaian guard would random picke two inmate to a fetch water from a nearby well, they managed to bribe this guard and were choosed to do this job, then on their way, they attacked the Ukrainian guard and cut his throat, then they ran into the forest. Both of them survived the war, and emigrated to American after the war.
For retaliation, all other member of this Waldkommando were shot by German SS guard. for this reason, many Jews who survied the Sobibor never forgive them.
10 German SS guards and 2 Ukrainian guards were killed (NOT BE MURDERED) in this revolt, and there were far more Jews excaped from Sobibor than 64, Mr Richard Rashke put the number at 300, maybe the numbe "64" only included those survied both Sobibor and the war, many Sobibor survivor died afterward, many of them join partisans (and not surprisely these Partisans group were never kind enough to take German prisoners, and obviously these fellows need some lectures!) and were killed in fight, sadly some of them were killed by their fellow Polish countryman, simply because they were Jewish.

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Post by Horvath » 01 Feb 2004 12:25

I can tell you how my grandma espaced from the ghetto if you want to.

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Post by giles120 » 01 Feb 2004 22:17


You are correct, the number quoted '64' was the number of Jews who escaped Sobibor and survived the war(this figure is from a single source and includes individual escapes as well). The Yad Vashem online magazine put the figure at approximately '50' persons(just for the revolt of October 14th 1943). The below statistics put the number of escapees who survived the war at '62'(all escapes). Please note that the below statistics were figures given by Toivi Thomas Blatt, one of the participants in the revolt, and I think they also appear in Blatt's recollection of the uprising 'Sobibor - The Forgotten Revolt'.

Alexander Perchesky, Soviet prisoner of war and one of the key organisers in the camp uprising states in his work 'The Revolt in Sobibor',
"It is difficult to say for certain how many people escaped from the camp."

The Commander of SS and Police forces in Lublin, Lieutenant General Jakob Sporrenberg, immediately informed General Frederick Krüeger in Krakow, the Commander of all SS and Police forces in occupied Poland of the Sobibor uprising and the Nazi casualties. His cable to them follows: "October 14, 1943, at about 17:00 hours, a revolt of Jews in the SS camp Sobibor, 40 km north of Chelm. They overpowered the guards, seized the armory and after a shutout with the camp garrison, escaped in an unknown direction. Nine SS killed. One SS wounded. One SS missing. Two guards of non-German nationality shot to death.

Approximately 300 Jews escaped. The remainder were shot to death or are now in the camp. Military Police and armed forces were immediately notified and took over the security of the camp at about l:00 hours (1:00AM, October 15). The area south and southwest of Sobibor is now being searched by police and armed forces."

Please see below statistics.

The Jewish Side:
Original number of prisonsers at the time of the revolt 550
• Not able or willing to escape, including 30 in Lager I (150)
• Killed in combat and mine fields (80)
Number of prisoners to initially escape Sobibor 320
• Captured in dragnet and executed (170)
Number of prisonsers to successfully escape Sobibor 150
• Killed fighting Germans as partisans or in the army (5)
• Killed in hiding, mostly by hostile native elements (92)
Number of revolt survivors to be liberated by the Allies 53
* Additionally, 9 Jews survived from earlier individual escapes,
which makes a total of Sobibor survivors: 62

If you do not include the 9 individual escapes, the number of Jews who participated in the revolt and survived the war is 53. There does not seem to be any consensus as to the exact number of survivors.


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Post by Kiesel » 03 Feb 2004 11:28

Martin Gray escaped from Treblinka, hidden in train. He survived the war.

Source: Martin's bio "For those I loved" (written by Max Gallo).

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Post by Eden Zhang » 04 Feb 2004 09:02

Horvath wrote:I can tell you how my grandma espaced from the ghetto if you want to.
Only if you don't mind. I would really like to know how she managed to do that.

If you don't wish to discuss it openly, feel free to PM or email me.

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Post by Panther » 04 Feb 2004 09:49

Not mentioning the ones who tried but failed. I belive tunnels and runs were made from one time to another. Real "hollywood" escapes sometimes... But that's just what I've bypassed quickly while reading...

/Regards Panther

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How some escaped

Post by Adams » 27 Apr 2005 20:35

There is a television dramatisation of the "Escape from Sobibor" based on the real events where there was a mass escape across the minefield after the inmates, led by newly arrived russian prisoners, killed some of the german guards. The television version stars Rutger Hauer..

Also, I believe that before Auschwitz began its intake of jewish prisoners, some young poles escaped by getting through to the guards quarters, stealing uniforms, guns and a car and driving out. Half a kilometre from the camp a guard was slow to raise a barrier and so one of the Poles shouted at him in german to get a move on. The barrier was raised and they escaped.

In Berlin, towards the end, Jewish prisoners (Organizers of the olimpics) made a deal with the camp commandant, who left the gates open.

The tragedy is millions more died with no hope of escape...


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Post by stavrogin » 28 Apr 2005 04:50

It is strange to me the mass of people who laid face-down waiting for the bullet in the neck. To understand them, it must literally be a "you had to be there to understand" situation. I would think that I would try to take out a few guards before they got me, but maybe I would not have. It is so hard to try to put yourself in these people's shoes.

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Post by john h » 28 Apr 2005 19:27

i have pondered on this subject for a number of years and in part i have to agree with stavrogin survival should have been foremost in all jewish prisoners what i have never understood is if you have ten thousand prispners and against them 100 hundred guards why did they go to there deaths so easily if they had revolted sure a few hundred would have perished but the majority would have over powered the guards gerald reitlinger in his book scourge of the swastika mentions that after the war young jews asked the question of their elders why did you not fight back it has always seemed strange to me that fathers could stand by and watch members of there familys be taken away for certain death without putting up any kind of fight i know this line of thought may offend some members of this forum it isnt meant to its just something i have never been able to get my head round

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