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Tomasz (Toivi) Blatt

Izbica, Poland

Tomasz was born to a Jewish family in Izbica, a Polish town whose largely religious Jewish community comprised more than 90 percent of the population. Tomasz's father owned a liquor store.

1933-39: In September 1939, a drum sounded in the marketplace, calling the town to assemble for a news report. Germany had invaded Poland. More news arrived shortly; the Soviet Union was invading from the east. We didn't know what to do. Some people said to run to the Soviet side; many, including my parents, decided to stay in Izbica. Father explained his decision by saying, "The Germans are antisemites but they're still people."

1940-43: By 1943 I had been deported to the Sobiborextermination camp, and was in the uprising there that year. During the revolt prisoners streamed to one of the holes cut in the barbed-wire fence. They weren't about to wait in line; there were machine guns shooting at us. They climbed on the fence and just as I was half way through, it collapsed, trapping me underneath. This saved me. The first ones through hit mines. When most were through, I slid out of my coat, which was hooked on the fence, and ran till I reached the forest.

Tomasz went into hiding, and then worked as a courier in the Polish underground. After the war, he remained in Poland, and then moved to the United States in 1959.


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