The last survivor of the Nazi death camp Treblinka—which systematically murdered 875,000 people during World War II, a gruesome toll eclipsed only by Auschwitz—died Friday at his home in Israel at the age of 93. Samuel Willenberg, born in Poland in 1923, was a physically fit bricklayer at the time of his arrival at Treblinka and was sent to work instead of immediately gassed like most prisoners, reports the BBC. He said it was "chance, sheer chance" that on Aug. 2, 1943, shortly before the camp was destroyed, he managed to escape during a mass revolt, reports the AP. The then-20-year-old had to climb over bodies to mount a fence and then keep running even as friends were shot alongside him. He was one of just 67 people known to have survived Treblinka.
Willenberg credits his blue eyes and "non-Jewish" looks with his ability to evade capture in the following weeks as he made his way back to Poland and joined the uprising there (his mother was an Orthodox Christian but converted to Judaism, notes Haaretz). Both his sisters were killed at the camp, and he's survived by a daughter and grandchildren. Eventually Willenberg settled down in Israel and worked as a surveyor, and he told the AP in 2010: "I live two lives, one is here and now and the other is what happened there. It never leaves me. It stays in my head. It goes with me always." He regularly visited the area to guide youth tour groups and said, "The world cannot forget Treblinka." (The Nazis tried to destroy evidence of Treblinka in 1943, but archaeologists uncovered some of its secrets.)