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Kalmen Wewryk

Edited, transcribed and translated from the Yiddish by Howard Roiter

To Sobibor and Back: An Eyewitness Account

published by the
Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies

Copyright Howard Roiter, 1999

Key Words

Air bombing, Aktion, bandits, Baptists, Bludowa (town in Poland), river Bug, Canada, cattle cars, Chelm (city in Poland), Chrubyeshoov (town in Poland), Chrubyeshoov Forest, forced labour, gas chambers, Gestapo, hiding, Jewish Police Force, kapo, NKVD, partisans, Poland, Polish Army, poison, rape, Russian Army, Sobibor, Soviet partisans, SS, Star of David Armbands, suicide, uprising, Gustav Wagner (commandant at Sobibor), Wehrmacht soldiers, Wroclaw (town in Poland).


Kalmen Wewryk was born in 1906 in Chelm, Poland in 1906 and was raised in an Orthodox family. Was a carpenter by trade, married and set up a business selling fabric. He had two small children. Provides an account of the brief ten-day period when the Russians held Chelm in 1939 and the subsequent transfer of Chelm to Germany thereafter. Also describes how his life and that of his family became increasingly difficult after the German occupation of Poland, how he was often beaten and driven into forced labor, starvation and desperation. His wife and children were taken away by the SS while he was hiding; he never saw his family again. Describes the massacre of Jews in Chelm and his subsequent deportation to Sobibor in 1942 where his life was spared because he was a carpenter. Describes selections, the knowledge that Sobibor was an extermination camp, his witnessing women and children being taken to gas chambers, the stench of burning flesh, and the starvation he and other prisoners experienced. Tells of a plot to poison the Germans and Ukrainian guards, and how the plot was uncovered and the accused put to death. Vivid descriptions of inhuman conditions of the camp, and the brutality and sadism of various kapos and German guards

Feels he owes his survival to Alexander Pechersky, a Soviet Jewish prisoner of war. Pechersky organized a team planning uprising and escape. The day of revolt was October 14, 1943. Describes how prisoners killed German guards and escaped to the forest with 55 other escapees. The group separated, and he was left to fend for himself. Returned to Chelm alone, but found that the Ukrainian man he had entrusted with his goods threatened to turn him in to the Gestapo. Returned to the forest wandering from place to place searching and begging for food. Joined a group of Soviet partisans, and returned to Chelm after the Russians liberated the city. Went to Wroclaw with other Holocaust survivors, was arrested and beaten by Polish police. Heard about the Kielce pogrom, then moved to Lodz and waited for papers to allow him to leave Poland. He met a woman who had survived Auschwitz, moved to Biala-Kama and married. His daughter was born in 1950. He and his family still wanted to leave Poland, believing Jews were still in danger. In 1956, he and his family were allowed to leave Poland. Immigrated to France to join his wife’s brother. Later moved to Montreal, Canada in 1968 where he worked as a carpenter until his retirement.

Original manuscript includes a map of Sobibor and attestations from fellow Sobibor survivors that Wewryk was in Sobibor and participated in the revolt.


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