Thomas Blatt

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Thomas Blatt
Thomas Blatt Sobibor 2013 03.jpg
Thomas Blatt in 2013 during a return to Sobibór marking the 70th anniversary of the camp uprising
Tomasz Blatt

(1927-04-15)April 15, 1927
Died (2015-10-31)October 31, 2015 (aged 88)
Nationality Polish
Other names Toivi Blatt
Known for Survivor of the Sobibór extermination camp uprising
Spouse(s) Dena Blatt [1]
Children Leon Blatt [1]

Thomas "Toivi" Blatt (born Tomasz Blatt; April 15, 1927 – October 31, 2015) was a Polish-American Holocaust survivor,[2] writer of mémoires, and public speaker, who at the age of 16 escaped from the Sobibór extermination camp during the uprising staged by the Jewish Sonderkommando prisoners in October 1943. The escape was attempted by about 300 inmates,[3] many of whom were recaptured and killed by the German search squads. Following World War II Blatt lived in the Soviet-controlled Poland until the Polish October revolution. In 1957, he emigrated to Israel, and in 1958 settled in the United States.[3]


Thomas "Toivi" Blatt was born on April 15, 1927, to a Jewish family in Izbica, Second Polish Republic, where his father owned a liquor store. The population of the town was 90 percent Jewish at the time according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia.[3] Tomasz (Toivi) also had a brother. During the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany in World War II, his family was forced into the Izbica Ghetto created by the SS in 1941, the largest transit ghetto in the Lublin Reservation.[4] On April 28, 1943, Blatt was taken to Sobibór by truck with about 400 Jews from Izbica.[5] Members of his family were killed there on arrival. Thomas (age 16) along with 40 young men was selected to join the Arbeitsjuden in the Lower, and later, the Upper Camp, where he cut the hair of naked women before gassing.[5]

During the one year and a half in which the Sobibór killing centre operated, at least 167,000 people were murdered there, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum;[6] virtually all of the victims were Jews, mostly from Poland, France and the Netherlands. Other estimates range from 200,000 (Raul Hilberg) to 250,000 (Dr. Aharon Weiss, and Czesław Madajczyk).[7]

Escape from Sobibór

Blatt was among some 300 Sonderkommando prisoners who attempted to escape from the camp during the uprising staged by the Sobibór underground on October 14, 1943.[8]


Thomas Blatt in Stalinist Poland wearing uniform of an officer

In 1957, Blatt emigrated from Stalinist Poland to Israel and in 1958 settled in the United States.[3] In the late 1970s and 1980s, he worked for Richard Rashke, an American journalist and author who wrote the Escape from Sobibor first published in 1982. Blatt was commissioned by Rashke to help him locate and interview Sobibór survivors for the story of the revolt.[9]

Blatt also did his own research. In 1983, he interviewed Karl Frenzel after his release from prison,[10] a Nazi German who had been third in command at Sobibór. Frenzel, convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison for his actions at the camp, was released on appeal after serving 16 years. Blatt later claimed that his interview was the first one after World War II in which an extermination camp survivor spoke face-to-face with a camp functionary.[3][11]

The 1983 book by Rashke was adapted into the award-winning 1987 television film, Escape from Sobibor. It portrayed the events leading up to, and including the uprising in Sobibór. Blatt served as a technical adviser on the film. The revolt leaders Leon Feldhendler and Alexander Pechersky, as well as other camp prisoners including Blatt were played by actors. The film was directed by Jack Gold and shot in Yugoslavia.[9]

Blatt wrote two books about Sobibór. His first mémoire, From The Ashes of Sobibor (1997),[12] is about his life before the war and the German occupation of Izbica leading up to the deportation of his family to the Sobibór death camp. His second mémoire titled Sobibor: the forgotten revolt (1998)[1] also based on his own experience and supplementary research, and written with the help of his son Leon Blatt,[1] describes the story of the prisoner revolt of October 14, 1943, as remembered by Alexander Pechersky and others.[13] The book material was used as the source for his personal website by the same name.[14]

Blatt lived in Santa Barbara, California. He died at his home on October 31, 2015, at the age of 88.[15][2]


  1. ^ a b c d Blatt, Thomas Toivi (1998). Sobibor, the Forgotten Revolt: A Survivor's Report. H.E.P. ISBN 0964944200. Acknowledgements.
  2. ^ a b Roberts, Sam (November 2, 2015). "Thomas Blatt, Who Escaped Death Camp During Revolt, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kowalczyk-Nowak, Agnieszka (November 2, 2015). "Tomasz Blatt (1927–2015)". Portal of the Majdanek State Museum, Lublin, Poland; Main Branch of the Sobibór State Museum.
  4. ^ Virtual Shtetl. "Izbica. The Jewish History". Museum of the History of Polish Jews. page 3 of 6. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24 – via Internet Archive.
  5. ^ a b de Ree, Erik (2012). "Thomas Blatt". The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD). Archived from the original on 2016-03-09 – via Internet Archive.
  6. ^ USHMM (2012). "Sobibor: Chronology". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. Archived from the original on 2012-08-15 – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ Eberhardt, Piotr; Owsinski, Jan (2015). Estimated Numbers of Victims of the Nazi Extermination Camps. Ethnic Groups and Population Changes in Twentieth Century Eastern Europe. Routledge. p. 124. ISBN 1317470966. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Thomas Blatt - Sobibor Interviews". 2016-03-09. Archived from the original on 2016-03-09. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  9. ^ a b "Escape from Sobibor by Richard Rashke". University of Illinois Press. University of Illinois. Archived from the original on July 1, 2012 – via Internet Archive: July 1, 2012.
  10. ^ Smart, Victor; Webb, Chris (2012). "Sobibor survivor Thomas Tovi Blatt confronts Death Camp Commandant Karl Frenzel in 1983". Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team.
  11. ^ The Holocaust Encyclopedia (2018). "Tomasz (Toivi) Blatt. Born: April 15, 1927. Izbica, Poland". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC.
  12. ^ WorldCat; Blatt, Thomas Toivi (1997). From the Ashes of Sobibor: A Story of Survival. Evanston, NU Press (reprint). ISBN 0810113023. OCLC 645873594.
  13. ^ Blatt, Thomas Toivi (2000), Sobibor – The Forgotten Revolt, H.E.P., pp. 3, 92, ISBN 0964944200 – via Google Books, snippet view
  14. ^ "Sobibor, The Forgotten Revolt".
  15. ^ Gera, Vanessa (November 2, 2015). "Thomas Blatt, survivor of escape from Sobibor dies at 88". Associated Press.

External links

  • Interview of Thomas Blatt, WMRA
  • Escape from Sobibor on IMDb
  • Thomas Blatt at the memorial site of Sobibor, October 2010
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