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Sobibor - Poland

May, 1942 - October, 1943

he Sobibor camp was built near the small village of that name in the eastern sector of the Lublin district, close to a railroad line. Construction of the camp was based on experience gained in building and operating the camp at Belzec. Sobibor, laid out in a rectangle 600 x 400 meters, was partitioned into three zones. The "forward camp" had a railroad platform, room for 20 cars, and Germans’ and Ukrainians’ housing quarters.

ews transported to the camp for extermination were taken to the "reception area," where they underwent all steps preceding their murder: removal of clothing, removal of women’s hair, and appropriation of valuables. The extermination area, the most distant, contained the gas chambers, the burial pits, and a barracks for Jewish prisoners. The reception area and the extermination area were connected by a path 150 meters long, 3 meters wide, and bordered by barbed-wire fences camouflaged with vegetation, through which the victims were driven naked. The camp had three gas chambers, each one 4 x 4 meters. Each chamber had an additional door through which the bodies were removed. The gas was pumped in from an adjacent shed. In the middle of April 1942, as construction of the camp was nearly complete, a group of Jews, mostly women, was taken to Sobibor from the labor camp in Krychow to make sure the gas chambers would work properly. The pilot run was attended by the entire camp command.

perations at Sobibor were based on deception; the victims did not know what awaited them until the gas was being pumped into the sealed chambers. The first transport included 10,000 Jews from Germany and Austria, 6,000 from Theresienstadt, and thousands from Slovakia. In the first two months-from early May to the end of June-100,000 Jews were murdered in Sobibor. The Germans found that the gas chambers, which had a capacity of fewer than 600 people, were a bottleneck in the murder process. Therefore, a halt in camp operations in the summer was used to construct three more chambers, thus doubling the pace of extermination.