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Arrival to the Sobibor Death Camp!

Jules Schelvis

  Recounts his Journey and Arrival at to Sobibor Death Camp Recounts his Journey and Arrival at to Sobibor Death Camp  




Jules Schelvis & his wife Rachel in 1941

Jules Schelvis, his wife Rachel, whom he married on the 18 December 1941, were deported from Westerbork, transit camp in Holland to the Sobibor death camp in Poland on the 1st June 1943. Rachel’s family included as the head of the family, her father David Borzykowski who was born in Janow, Poland on the 13 February 1892 and the family home was at Nieuwe Kerkstraat 103, Amsterdam. Her mother Gitla was born in Czestochowa, Poland in 1895.


Other family members Chaja Stodel- Borzykowski who was born in Amsterdam 1921, Rachel Schelvs – Borzykowski, born on the 2 March 1923 and Herman Borzykowski who was born in Amsterdam in 1927. Only Jules Schelvis, survived, his wife and his wife’s family all were murdered in the gas chambers of Sobibor on the 4 June 1943, and he gave a detailed account of their journey and arrival in the death camp on that June day:


“The train, which departed from Westerbork on Tuesday 1 June, consisting of a long line of freight wagons, was carrying 3006 persons. There were sixty-two in my wagon, including my wife, and her family, plus one pram.


The journey took place under the most primitive conditions, lacking even basic provisions, such as straw to lie upon, or hooks to hang things from. Apart from two barrels, one filled with water, the others for our waste, the men from the Westerbork Orde Dienst (OD Order Service) had carried aboard a few bread parcels.

The sick were wheeled towards the wagons on trolleys. And all of this ostensibly to send us to police-supervised labour camps in Germany, which is how it was put on all the relevant forms. The commandant and his helpers stood by, watching the operation’s progress.


I have no recollections of any officials, in their well-polished shiny boots, concerning themselves with us at all. We had been entrusted to the care of the Jewish Council. Once everyone had clambered aboard, the sliding doors were barred on the outside. With all our luggage, we were packed like a tin of sardines, wondering how long we could endure this. There was hardly any room to stretch one’s legs, and only one small, barred window, which was unglazed, to let some fresh air in.


We left around half past ten. Only then did we begin to realise that the journey was going to end in some mysterious place. Perhaps Auschwitz, we had heard about Auschwitz. What was certain, however, was that our stamina was going to be severely tested. The train stopped countless times en route in order to let regular and military transports pass.


Sometimes we stopped for hours on end for no discernable reason. Throughout the entire journey, the doors were never opened once. We had to relieve ourselves in the little barrel, which soon caused a foul and unbearable stench. Having depleted the water from our own water bottles by the very first evening, we were parched with thirst.


The journey lasted for three long agonizing days, filled with despair and bickering. We went right across Germany via Bremen, Wittenberge, Berlin and Breslau and into Poland. In the morning of Friday 4 June we finally stopped at Chelm, close to what had once been the Russian border.


Rails leading into the Sobibor Deathcamp

The journey had made us so weary that we were no longer interested in where we would end up. Only one question remained how to get out of this foul –smelling overloaded cattle wagon, and get some fresh air into our lungs. That Friday morning at around ten, after a seventy- two hour journey, we finally stopped in the vicinity of a camp. It turned out to be Sobibor.


The Jews of the Banhofskommando were very heavy-handed getting us off the train onto the platform. They let on they were Jewish by speaking Yiddish, the language of the Eastern European Jews.


The SS men standing behind them were shouting “schneller, schneller,” faster –faster, and lashed out at people once they were lined up on the platform. Yet the first impression of the camp itself aroused no suspicion, because the barracks looked rather like little Tyrolean cottages, with their curtains and geraniums on the window sills.


But this was no time to dawdle. We made our way outside as quickly as possible. Rachel and I, and the rest of our family, fortunately had no difficulty in swiftly making our way onto the platform, which had been built up of sand and earth.

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/schelvisonsobibor.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto
H.E.A.R.T 2009

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