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Death Camp's Last Survivor Won't See It Transformed

Former Sobibor prisoner Semion Rosenfeld dead at 96
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2019 10:15 AM CDT
A Sobibor memorial is seen in Poland.   (Wikimedia/Julian Nitzsche)

(Newser) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has paid tribute to the last known survivor of the uprising at the Sobibor extermination camp following his death at a Tel Aviv retirement home at age 96. "May his memory be a blessing," Netanyahu writes of Semion Rosenfeld, one of only 47 Sobibor prisoners who ultimately survived World War II, per the BBC. Some 300 escaped the camp—where more than 250,000 Jews were mostly murdered in gas chambers—during a revolt in October 1943, but most were recaptured or later killed. Rosenfeld, a Jewish member of the Soviet Red Army who was sent to the camp after his capture by the Germans in 1941, was able to survive in the forest with a small group before rejoining the Red Army after it liberated Chelm in 1944, per the Jerusalem Post, which notes his division eventually helped take Berlin.

Rosenfeld returned to his native Ukraine before moving to Israel in 1990, per the Post. In 2013, he was awarded Poland's Order of the Cavalier Cross. Five years later, he was bestowed the Ukrainian Order of Merit III degree for bravery. "My condolences to his family and his friends," Chairman Isaac Herzog of the Jewish Agency for Israel says in a statement, adding, "It is our duty to remind and pass from generation to generation the story of the life and heroism of Semion Rosenfeld and all his contemporaries." Nazis shot all remaining prisoners at Sobibor following the uprising, then attempted to bury the camp, though its gas chambers were uncovered in 2014. A museum and tourist center are now being built at the site, though Rosenfeld's death means there will be no survivors to witness the project's completion next year, per the Times of Israel. (Read more obituary stories.)

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