Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ghosts in Macsoczyn

The Eastern border of today's Poland has its ghosts. Macsoczyn has some too. The Village of Macsoczyn is where Alexandra and Michal lived. Macsoczyn is still a very small village near the Bug and near to Sobibor Forest. Today a peaceful and beautiful forest with tall conifers. However, during WWII, there was no tall established forest, there was only the Nazi concentration camp - Sobibor. I was there many times to interview local people and meet the local anthropological/historian Marek Bem. I was there once when Toivi Blatt came with a group of Americans. He was giving a special tour of the death camp that he had survived.  He wrote a book called " From the Ashes of Sobibor". There was a planned escape from Sobibor, it was the most successful one though only 50 survived. If I remember correctly, at the time of the escape, there were some 600 Jews there. About 300 plus got out of 'escaped' the camp on October 14 1943. Many were gunned down trying to get over or under the barbed wire fences and if they did, they risked falling onto land mines as they ran from the camp. More were hunted down and executed only miles from the camp within the following hours/days of the escape.
Alexandra and Michal were Christan and were not aware of the atrocities going on there, though rumors were about. Some locals were enlisted to help out with the Nazi occupation in Poland, sorting clothes i.e. and providing food stuffs to the soldiers ... or else face execution. Alexandra and Michal did not tell me if they were ever recruited but I know that they did know about or had an idea that an escape from Sobibor took place as they mentioned having helped some Jews by giving them food for their way. Those times were brutal for all who lived in that region. i could go on as there is so much to tell, but I think best if  you read it yourself. I recommend reading Blatt's book or making a trip to Sobibor, visit the museum and see for yourself... what remains. About 250,000 Jews from all over Europe were killed there, gassed and buried. There was recently a documentary on public television about Sobibor hosted by Sobibor historian, Howard Tuck. Blatt was a young man even teenager at the time, strong and kept on by the Nazi to work on the camp. He escaped that day and said that he thought for sure he would be shot and welcomed death as he was free! He says by God's grace he made it, though it was not easy and he had to lay low and endure pain and hardship for a long time, even after the war and until he got out of Europe. He lives in California today.
The people of Macsoczyn thought less than 5 miles from Sobibor say that they either don't remember much about this, don't want to or are too young to remember what happened at Sobibor. They are just ghosts of another time and they were/are just local  people.

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