SOBIBOR - CONVEYOR OF DEATH.
“I gave the order to destroy men, women and children without remorse and pity. This is the only way we can win the living space... Then the German world domination will break out, ”mad Hitler declared already at the very beginning of the Second World War. In the spring of 1942, when the Nazis were still taking Soviet cities one by one, Hitler's headquarters developed an operation to exterminate the Jews of Europe..."
The occupied Poland - special camps were built in Belzec, Chelmno, Treblinka and Sobibor. Reasoning that executions were slow and expensive, the Nazis used gas chambers. The first echelons filled with Jewish families arrived in Sobibor on May 15, 1942. At first, those doomed to death were offered to send postcards to friends asking them not to worry about their fate - the Nazis still did not want the whole world to know about their atrocities. Then the crowd was driven to the barracks, where they offered to hand over valuables and things “for safekeeping”. They announced that they were waiting for a bath. Stripped naked. Women and children were shaved bald: the hair went to felt for Wehrmacht overcoats. The men were immediately sent to the gas chambers. Them, there were six - each, the size of 16 "squares", squeezing about eighty people.
The doors were tightly closed. The SS men started the old tank engine, carbon monoxide entered the chambers through special devices. There were no windows. The German watched the process through a glass peephole in the ceiling. Half an hour was enough for the massacre. Desperate crying and the cry of children merged into one terrible cry.
With special tongs, the guards pulled out golden crowns from the corpses. Then the floor opened up, the bodies fell into the basement. There were wagons. The dead were taken to the forest and thrown into a huge trench. In July 1942, Reichsführer SS Himmler visited Sobibor and was dissatisfied with the pace: he ordered the bodies to be burned. The fires of Sobibor could be seen for many kilometers. Jews from Lithuania, France, Czechoslovakia, Austria were brought here to die... More than 30,000 Jews from Holland were exterminated here, among whom were world-famous athletes - gold medalists of the Olympic Games. On September 23, 1943, the first echelon with Soviet Jews arrived in Sobibor. Among them was Alexander Aronovich Pechersky from Rostov.
Alexander Pechersky went to the front in the first days of the war. Behind was a happy peaceful life. A childhood in which he grew up surrounded by two brothers and two sisters. His youth, when he studied piano at a music school and became interested in theater: according to him, music and theater were the most important things in the world for him. After school, he went to work as an electrician at a locomotive repair plant. He led the "amateur circle of dramatic art." He married the Don Cossack Lyudmila Vasilievna Zamelatskaya. When his daughter Eleanor was born, he composed music for her. With a photograph of his daughter, he went to the front with the rank of lieutenant. In early October 1941, the army, in which Pechersky fought, was surrounded near Vyazma. In those battles, more than a million Soviet soldiers died, and the commander F.M. Lukin was taken prisoner. Couldn't get out of the way and Lieutenant Pechersky. First, there was a concentration camp near Smolensk, where he fell ill with typhus. “But I did my best to look healthy, and they didn’t kill me,” Pechersky recalled. For attempting to escape in 1942, he will be sent to a punishment cell in Borisov, then - to Minsk. Here, during a medical examination, his Jewish origin will be revealed. They will put them in the basement, which the Germans called the "Jewish cellar" - in complete darkness, for 10 days. In September 1942, he was transferred to an SS labor camp near Minsk. He will voluntarily go to the hardest work in order to survive - such hard workers were fed a little better than ordinary prisoners of war. “He sang so beautifully in the evenings ...”, - recalls whether surviving prisoners. When he was brought to Sobibor and the Nazis began to select joiners and carpenters for camp work, he would also take a step forward: “Prisoners of war have such a law. It is not known if you will have a chance for a second step.” The camp is a large farm, and the Germans needed plumbers, locksmiths, joiners, and carpenters. Thanks to their skills, their lives were extended by several months. Pechersky worked in a carpentry workshop.
A week later, the whole camp learned about the Russian lieutenant Sashko, as they began to call him in Sobibor. One of the Dutch prisoners - emaciated, wearing glasses with thick lenses - could not cut the stump. When he was beaten, Pechersky also came to the attention of the SS that ordered the prisoner to demolish the stump, giving five minutes of time. For this, the fascist promised Alexander a pack of cigarettes. Pechersky chopped the stump into chips in 4.5 minutes. However, he refused cigarettes: “I don’t smoke.” The astonished SS man left and returned with half a loaf of bread and a pack of margarine. But even here Pechersky did not take a handout: “It seemed to me that human blood…” he recalled. The act aroused admiration among the prisoners. Many came up to shake hands with Sashko - tall, slender, handsome, with a strong-willed face. That same evening, he was asked to join the underground camp, led by Leon Feldhendler from Poland.
At that time, a group of underground workers was already preparing to escape. Pechersky accepted the offer, but with one condition: the escape must be massive. "We cannot save our lives in order to destroy the entire camp." He already knew that a little earlier one of the Dutch naval officers had tried to escape from Sobibor. For this, the Nazis shot 72 of his countrymen. Alexander Pechersky spent only 22 days in Sobibor. During this time, he managed to organize and carry out a mass camp uprising, which became the only successful one in all the years of the Second World War.
ESCAPE FROM HELL.
Around the camp, there were three-meter barbed wire fences, a moat filled with water and a mined area. Every fifty meters - towers with machine guns. The camp was guarded by 15-20 SS men and about 120 former Soviet prisoners of war who agreed to cooperate with the Nazis: “I noticed that the Germans do not particularly trust the guards. Many on the territory did not even have cartridges in their rifles. Then a plan for organizing an uprising and escaping from the camp began to mature in me,” recalled Pechersky. Pechersky put forward a bold plan: to attack first and then break through to freedom. In order not to arouse suspicion, he began dating a girl from Holland named Luca. Every time they met with Luca, they were joined by members of the underground, discussing the details of the escape. She is 18, he is 34. “She smoked a lot. I asked why? Luca said she worked in the goose house next to the gas chambers. And constantly hears the screams of the dying.
“Pechersky asked me: “Could you kill a man with an axe?” Semyon Rosenfeld, a former prisoner of Sobibor, recalled. And I answered: “Man, no. But an SS man can.” Pechersky had the same conversation with Boris Tsybulsky. They sat together in the Minsk camp for prisoners of war. Pechersky said: “I know you better than anyone. Therefore, your strike will be the first. If one of the guys is afraid, replace it. You can't force anyone."
The camp blacksmiths were responsible for the preparation of axes and knives. It was decided that the SS men would be eliminated in the workshops - shoemaking, sewing. In the workshops, the Nazis looked for valuables from the dead - for sending home. October 14, 1943 was quiet and sunny. The beginning of the uprising was scheduled for 15.30. To the sewing workshop two officers were called in turn to try on the new suits. The first one took off his uniform and a belt with a pistol, and began to try on a new thing. The prisoner Shubaev hit the fascist on the head with the butt of an ax with all his might. His corpse was thrown under a bunk in the workshop and pelted with things. Shubaev was already shooting at the second SS man from an enemy pistol, shouting: “For the Motherland, for Stalin, forward!” Thus, in about an hour, 11 Nazis were killed. The captives turned off the electricity, damaged the telephone connection and the alarm system. After that, cutting the wire fence around the camp, they rushed in different directions. The last to leave the camp, according to surviving eyewitnesses, were the organizers of the uprising.
Many were blown up in a minefield. “According to the plan, it was necessary to throw stones and boards onto the minefield to secure it, but in the confusion, no one did this. There was a continuous hell around: shooting, explosions of grenades and mines, machine-gun fire, ” recalled Pechersky. Of the 550 prisoners who were in Sobibor, 150 people did not take part in the escape and were later shot. 80 people died during the uprising. 320 prisoners were able to escape. Of these, 170 people were killed during the persecution organized by the Nazis, 92 were killed by the Poles or handed over to the Germans, 5 died in battles with the Germans as part of partisan detachments. 53 people survived to Victory Day. After the escape of the prisoners, on the orders of the enraged Himmler, the camp was closed. Wehrmacht sappers blew up gas chambers, barracks, barracks. They razed everything to the ground, in which the bodies of innocent killed people were buried, and plowed up.
20 years after the war, a monument was erected on the site of the Sobibor camp: a huge mound with windows through which its contents can be seen - the remains of the destroyed people. Human bones, hair, dentures... According to German documents, 250,000 people died on this land during the year and a half of Sobibor's existence. According to Pechersky and his comrades, more than half a million.
WITHOUT GUILT GUILTY.
“A group of 50 prisoners fled with me. I divided them into separate groups. We traveled mostly at night. During the day they hid in the bushes. So we got to the Bug, crossed over and joined the partisans,” recalled Pechersky.
On October 22, 1943, Alexander Pechersky joined the Shchors partisan detachment. He was a demolition worker until the Soviet troops liberated Belarus. And then he, like all Soviet prisoners of war, fell under the suspicion of the competent authorities. Pechersky is sent to an assault rifle battalion. In fact, it is a kind of penal battalion. In one of the battles in August 1944, Pechersky was seriously wounded. “I was scared when I accidentally saw this scar. from the hip along the entire leg. It was not even a scar - as if a whole piece of meat had been torn off, ” says Natalya Yuryevna Ladychenko, Pechersky’s granddaughter.
For this wound, the Soviet authorities reward Alexander Aronovich with a certificate stating that, “in the 15th separate assault rifle battalion, on the basis of the directive of the General Staff of the Spacecraft of 14.06.44, No. 12/309593, he atoned for his guilt before the Motherland with blood.” They say that Pechersky was ashamed of this certificate and did not show it to anyone.
After being wounded, the war for Pechersky was over. He was decommissioned. On the advice of his battalion commander Andreev, to whom he told about the events in Sobibor, he went to Moscow, to the “Commission to Investigate the Atrocities of the Nazi Invaders and Their Accomplices” created in those years.
The story of Pechersky was listened to by the writers P.G. Antokolsky and V.A. Kaverin, who, on its basis, published the essay “The Uprising in Sobibor”. Using military letters to his sister Zinaida, in 1945 Alexander Aronovich Pechersky wrote his memoirs, "The Uprising in the Sobiburovsky Camp", published in Rostov in a small edition. Pechersky returns to Rostov-on-Don. Life with his first wife does not add up, and a year later Pechersky marries Olga Ivanovna Kotova. He met her at the hospital where he was being treated. The first family hearth for the spouses and their children (the daughter of Pechersky Eleanor and Tatyana, the daughter of Olga Ivanovna live with them) becomes a damp, dark basement.
But the war is over, and that's the main thing. And he, who went through the hell of Sobibor, did not perish in partisan battles, was not struck to death by a bullet in an assault battalion, he is alive. Who would have thought that new ordeals await Alexander Aronovich?
In 1948, when Jews began to be persecuted in the USSR as "rootless cosmopolitans", they tried to open a criminal case against Pechersky. At that time, he worked as an administrator for the Musical Theater - allegedly due to incorrect ticket accounting. When they came home with searched, even the employees of the authorities were struck by the poverty of his family. The case was closed. But they got fired from their jobs. He was expelled from the party - just in case. For three years, Pechersky could not find a job. Due to forced idleness, he began to embroider paintings and carpets -Bulgarian cross, from hand-dyed threads. Only after the death of Stalin, Pechersky was able to get a job as a master of the framing workshop of the Rostmetiz plant. Then - to the machine-building plant, where he worked until his retirement.
“You see, I was not brought up by the hero of Sobibor - Alexander Aronovich was simply my grandfather. Yes, the family knew about his feat. But there was no grandfather cult. So that the best pieces are served to him. On the contrary, he always gave the best to everyone. You are just on the threshold, and grandfather is already: “Oh, Natasha! And what about eating?”, says granddaughter Natalya Yuryevna Ladychenko.
In the early 50s, Pechersky was given two rooms in a communal apartment on Socialist Street, where he lived until the end of his days. Here, his secretary was inviolable for everyone, where Alexander Aronovich kept letters that came to him from different countries, materials on Sobibor, which he collected. Immediately after the war, he began to look for surviving prisoners, whom fate scattered around the world. They began to answer him from the USA, Australia, Israel ... For a modest salary, he ordered translations of received letters and publications about Sobibor. These materials were stored in separate folders. He really wanted as many people as possible to know about what the Nazis were doing during the war. These materials are still kept in the family of A. A. Pechersky. His active correspondence with foreign countries during the Cold War, when the imperialist West was the enemy [well, it still is, and even was before and during WW2 itself, albeit in attenuated, underhanded manner—Ed] of the USSR, caused great dissatisfaction with the KGB. The Soviet government tried to forget the uprising in Sobibor as quickly as possible. A feat was accomplished by a Jew - even if he were a communist at least three times. In addition, Soviet Lithuanians and Ukrainians, who had gone over to the side of the Nazis, served as guards in the camp. By the way, the former Red Army soldier Ivan Demyanyuk, who was recently found guilty of complicity in massacres, was also a Sobibor guard. In addition, the prisoners who fled through the forests were either handed over to the Nazis, or killed by the inhabitants of Poland themselves, which had already become a fraternal socialist country!
In a word, the Motherland did not recognize the feat of Pechersky. Of the awards, he had only medals "For the victory over Germany" and "For military merit." In 1964, he was not allowed into Germany as a witness for the prosecution at a trial where former employees of the Sobibor camp were tried. He was never able to come to Poland for commemorative celebrations.
In 1987, based on the memoirs of former prisoners, the film "Escape from Sobibor" was shot. Pechersky was invited to the premiere in the USA. However, he failed to leave, as the local OVIR did not issue a passport.
Later, from the USA, he was sent a video cassette with a movie, where Rutger Hauer starred as Lieutenant Sashko. Pechersky revised it several times. They say that some aspects were not correct and he was dissatisfied . By the way, this film was shown on Russian television only 10 years after the premiere.
Every year on October 14, Alexander Aronovich Pechersky celebrated the anniversary of the escape from the death camp. Every time here, in a communal apartment on Socialist Street, gathered from different cities of the USSR, former prisoners of the Sobibor camp. One documentary footage from 1983 has survived: it was the 40th anniversary of the escape, at that time only six people survived. Alexander Aronovich Pechersky raises a toast. His voice trembles, there are tears in his eyes: "Let's remember our comrades, who paved the way for us with their death."
A. A. Pechersky passed away at the age of 80 on January 19, 1990. His grave is located on the Alley of Veterans. In 2007, a memorial plaque was installed on the house on Socialist Street, where he lived.
“My great-grandfather was really a very modest person and always emphasized that he did only what any person should have done in his place. Well, it just kind of happened. And what was very lucky, of course, recalls the great-grandson of Pechersky Anton Ladychenko. “He also taught me how to play chess and dominoes. And never be upset if I lose.
PS October 14, 2013, marked the 70th anniversary of the uprising in the Sobibor death camp. President Vladimir Putin instructed the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to consider the issue of perpetuating the memory of the heroes-organizers. In particular, we are talking about awarding Alexander Aronovich Pechersky the title of Hero of Russia (posthumously).
Бойко Ирина ЛьвовнаRegards, Boyko Irina Lvovna)
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