Aleksandr Pecherski

Aleksandr Aronovich Pechersky (in Russian , Александр Аронович Печерский , 22 of February of 1909 – 19 of January of 1990 ), also known as “Sasha” was the main organizer and leader of the revolt and escape most successful mass of Jews of a concentration camp Nazi during World War II .

Before the war, Pechersky led an ordinary and anonymous life. He worked as an accountant in a amateur theater artists. He was recruited by the Red Army shortly after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union . A few months later, Pechersky was captured with his entire unit and interned for two years in Nazi camps for prisoners of war . The 14 of October of 1943 , Pechersky led an uprising and escape from Sobibor after spending only 21 days in that death camp . By then, he had two years as a prisoner of war , he had participated in a failed escape attempt and had witnessed the atrocities of Nazism . Having survived so long, he proved to be a resourceful man. 1

Many of the survivors gave contradictory testimony regarding their roles in Sobibor’s revolt and escape; However, a fact verified by all the survivors was that Pechersky was the leader, organizer and indisputable planner of the escape. 2 3

After the war, Pechersky married Olga Kotova. He was imprisoned for six years during one of the purges of Stalin , he was released due to international pressure and resumed his career in a small theater amateur musicians. Throughout his life, he never received a medal, a prize or public recognition for his leadership during the Sobibor uprising by the Soviet government . A decade after his death, a small plaque was erected on the side of the apartment complex that inhabited Rostov-on-Don to commemorate his exploits at Sobibor.


Early years

Pechersky, son of a lawyer Jew born on 22 of February of 1909 in Kremenchuk , current Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire ). In 1915 , his family moved to Rostov – on – Don , where he began working as an electrician in a factory repairing locomotives . 2 After graduating from a university with a diploma in music and literature , he became an accountant and manager of a small school for amateur musicians. 1

World War II

The 22 of June of 1941 , the day Germany invaded the Soviet Union , Pechersky was conscripted into the Red Army under the rank of lieutenant junior. 1 2By September 1941 , he was promoted to the rank of intendant (class II). 4 In early autumn boreal of 1941 , rescued his wounded being captured by the Germans commander; However, he received no medal for this feat. One of his comrades supposedly declared, “Sasha, if what you have done does not make you a hero, I do not know who it would be!” 2 In October 1941, during the Battle of Moscow , its unit was surrounded and captured by the Germans in the center of the city of Viazma , Smolensk Oblast .

Once captured, Pechersky contracted typhus , but survived the seven months of illness. 1 In May 1942 , he escaped with four other prisoners of war , but was recaptured on the same day. After this episode, it was sent to a criminal field in Borisov , Belarus and, from there, to the field of prisoners of war located in the forest near the city of Minsk . During a mandatory medical examination, he was found to be circumcised . Pechersky recalled that a German medical officer asked him “Do you admit to being Jewish?” He admitted it, since any denial would result in a flagellation 1 4 and was thrown into a basement called “the Jewish tomb” along with other Jewish prisoners of war, where he sat in complete darkness for ten days, being fed with 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of wheat and a cup of water every other day. 1

The 20 of August of 1942 , Pechersky was sent to a Arbeitslager ( field work ) of the Schutzstaffel (SS) in Minsk . The camp housed 500 Jews from the Ghetto of Minsk as well as Soviet Soviet prisoners of war; there were between 200 and 300 prisoners Russians that the Germans had qualified as incorrigible people who suspected they contacted the Soviet partisans and those who repeatedly missing work for the Germans. The prisoners were deprived of food and worked from dawn to dusk. 1 3 Pechersky wrote about the Minsk labor camp:

The commander of the Nazi camp would not let a single day go by without killing someone. If you looked at his face, you could tell he was a sadist . He was thin, his upper lip trembled, and his left eye was bloodshot. He always had a hangover or he was drunk and he did unspeakable horrors. He fired people for no reason at all and his favorite hobby was to tell his dog to attack people at random, who were ordered not to defend themselves. 1

In Sobibor

See also: Sobibor extermination camp

The 18 of September of 1943 , Pechersky, along with 2,000 Jews in Minsk including hundred Jewish prisoners of Soviet war, were placed in a van for cattle that led to the death camp of Sobibor , where they arrived the 23 of September of 1943 . Eighty prisoners of the train, including Pechersky, were selected to work in Field IV. The remaining 1,920 Jews were immediately taken to the gas chambers . 5Later, Pechersky remembered what he thought when the train stopped at Sobibor: ” How many hell circles were there in Dante’s Inferno ?” It seems that there were nine.How many have already passed? Being surrounded, captured, fields in Vyazma, Smolensk , Borisov, Minsk … And finally, I am here.What is next?2 The appearance of the Soviet prisoners of war produced an enormous impression on Sobibor’s prisoners:” hungry, with eyes full of hope following every movement ‘. 1

Pechersky wrote about his first day at Sobibor:

He was sitting in a pile of logs at night outdoors with Solomon (Shlomo) 5 Leitman, who later became my chief commander in the uprising. He asked about the immense and strange fire lit 500 meters behind us, behind some trees, and over the unpleasant odor across the field. He warned me that the guards forbade me to look there and he told me that they were burning the corpses of my murdered comrades who came with me that day. I did not believe him, but I continued: He told me that the camp existed more than a year ago and that almost every day a train arrived with two thousand new victims who were killed in a few hours. He said that about 500 Jewish prisoners ( Polish , French , German , Dutch and Czechoslovakians ) worked there and that my transport was the first that brought Russian Jews. He said that on this small piece of land (no more than 10 hectares or 0.1 km 2 ), hundreds of thousands of Jewish women, children and men were killed. I thought about my future. Should I try to escape alone or with a small group? Should I let the rest of the prisoners be tortured and killed? I rejected this idea. 1 2


  1. ↑ Jump to:a b c d e f g h i j (in Russian) Erenburg, Grossman. Black Book: Sobibor Uprising. Consulted the 21 of April of 2009.
  2. ↑ Jump to:a b c d e f (in Russian) Arguments & Facts: Profile Magazine , August 10, 2008. Accessed April 21, 2009.
  3. ↑ Jump to:a b «Jewish Electronic Encyclopedia» (in Russian) . Consulted the 21 of April of 2009 .
  4. ↑ Jump to:a b (Russian) Profile of Pechersky: Forgotten Hero , Top Secret . Consulted the 21 of April of 2009.
  5. ↑ Jump to:a b Arad, Yitzhak (1987). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps. Indiana University Press