Researchers locate site of gas chambers in Poland

By Vanessa Gera, Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 17, 2014 at 9:41 a.m.


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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish and Israeli Holocaust researchers say they have discovered the exact location of the building that housed gas chambers at Sobibor, one of the death camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.

Israel's Yad Vashem and the Majdanek State Museum in Poland, which oversees Sobibor, announced the finding Wednesday, calling it an important discovery in the field of Holocaust research.

Historians already knew that the Germans operated the gas chambers at Sobibor from April 1942 to October 1943, killing an estimated 250,000 Jews brought from across Europe. But they have many unanswered questions about the operation of the site because there were very few survivors and most of the site was dismantled during the war by the Germans.

"Any small piece of information we can add to our knowledge is a great thing," said Yoram Haimi, an Israeli archaeologist who has spent the past eight years digging at the site. The team that found the remains of the building also includes a Polish and a Dutch archaeologist.

Photos released by the researchers show a sizeable rectangular structure with brick walls that was divided into four chambers. Haimi said they have found a number of personal items nearby, including gold teeth and jewelry.

David Silberklang, a historian with Yad Vashem, said the finding will shed light on "what the Jews went through until they were murdered" and could lead to a more precise estimate of the numbers killed.

The Germans closed the camp after a prisoner revolt on Oct. 14, 1943, when about 300 of the young inmates killed several German officers and guards with axes and knives. Many of the prisoners fled the camp, but all except 52 of them were killed by guards or died in water ditches and mine fields surrounding the camp.

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Vanessa Gera

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