Escape From Sobibor


Alan Arkin and Rutger Hauer star in this award winning movie about the successful mass escape of 300 prisoners from the Sobibor Nazi death camp. Fine acting and production values make this film a worthwhile viewing experience.

Escape from Sobibor is a 1987 in television British made-for-TV film which aired on CBS.<></> It is the story of the mass escape from the extermination camp at Sobibor extermination camp, the most successful uprising by Jewish prisoners of German extermination camps (uprisings also took place at Auschwitz and Treblinka). The film was directed by Jack Gold and shot in Avala, Yugoslavia (now Serbia).
On 14 October 1943, members of the camp's underground resistance succeeded in covertly killing eleven German SS-Totenkopfverbände officers and a number of Sonderdienst Ukrainian and Volksdeutsche guards. Of the 600 inmates in the camp, roughly 300 escaped, although all but 50 - 70 were later re-captured and killed.</> Alan Arkin, Joanna Pacuła and Rutger Hauer were the primary stars of the film. Hauer received a Golden Globe Award for Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (Television). Thomas Blatt, a camp survivor who had assisted Rashke with his book, served as a technical consultant.


The film begins with a new trainload of Polish Jews arriving for processing at Sobibor. The German Commandant gives them a welcoming speech, assuring the new arrivals that the place is a work camp. Other SS officers move along the assembled lines of prisoners, selecting a small number who have trade skills such as shoemakers, tailors, seamstresses and goldsmiths. The rest of the prisoners are sent away to a different part of the camp from which a pillar of smoke rises day and night. It is some time before the new prisoners realize that Sobibor is a death camp and that all of the other Jews are exterminated in gas chambers and their corpses cremated in large ovens. The small number of prisoners who are kept alive in the other part of the camp are charged with sorting the belongings taken from those who are murdered and then repairing the shoes, recycling the clothing and melting down any silver and gold to make jewelry for the SS officers. Despite their usefulness, their existence is precarious and beatings and executions can occur at any time. Wagner is the most clever and sadistic of the German officers. When two prisoners escape from a work detail in the nearby forest, Wagner forces the remaining 13 prisoners of the work gang to each select one other prisoner to die with them and then executes all 26.
The leader of the prisoners, Leon Feldhendler, realizes that when the trains eventually stop coming, the camp will have outlived its usefulness and all the remaining Jews will be executed. He comes up with a plan for every prisoner to escape, by luring the SS officers and NCOs into the prisoner's barracks and work huts one by one and killing them as quietly as possible. Once all of the Germans are dead, the prisoners will assemble into columns and simply march out of the camp as if they have been ordered to, and it is hoped that the Ukrainian Guards, not knowing what is going on and with no Germans left alive to give orders or raise the alarm, will not interfere. A new group of prisoners arrive, Russian Jews who were soldiers with the Soviet army. Their leader, Perchersky, and his men willingly join the revolt, their military skills proving invaluable.
The Camp Commandant leaves for several days, taking Wagner with him and this proves an advantage as the most cunning of the SS officers will be absent from Sobibor. On 14 October 1943, the plan goes into action. One by one, SS officers and NCOs are lured into traps set by groups of prisoners armed with knives and clubs. Eleven Germans are killed but one officer, Karl Frenzel, unwittingly evades his killers and he discovers the corpse of one of his colleagues, raising the alarm. By now, the prisoners have assembled on the parade ground and, realizing the plan has been discovered, Perchersky and Feldhendler urge the prisoners to revolt and flee the camp. Most of the 600 prisoners stampede for the perimeter fences, some of the Jews using captured rifles to shoot their way through the Ukrainian guards. Other guards open fire with heavy machine-guns from observation-towers, cutting many of the fleeing prisoners down and other would-be escapees are killed on the minefield surrounding the camp. But over 300 Jews reach the forest and escape.
As the survivors flee deeper into the forest, a voice-over narrator tells of the experiences and fates that befell some of the survivors whose accounts the film was based on. Of the 300 prisoners who escaped, only approximately 50 survived to see the end of the war in 1945. Perchersky makes it back to Soviet lines and rejoins the Red Army, surviving the war. Feldhendler lives to see the end of the war but is killed shortly afterwards in a clash with anti-Semitic Poles. After the uprising, the largest escape from a prison camp of any kind in Europe during WW2, Sobibor was bulldozed to the ground and trees planted on the site to remove any sign of its existence.


In credits order.
  • Alan Arkin as Leon Feldhendler
  • Joanna Pacuła as Luka (Gertrude Poppert)
  • Rutger Hauer as Alexander Pechersky
  • Hartmut Becker as Gustav Wagner (SS officer)
  • Eric Caspar as Franz Reichleitner
  • Hugo Bower as Rudolf Beckmann
  • Klaus Grünberg as Erich Bauer
  • Wolfgang Bathke as SS-Unterscharführer Hurst
  • Henning Gissel as SS-Unterscharführer Fallaster
  • Henry Stolow as Johann Niemann
  • Ullrich Haupt, Jr. as SS-Unterscharführer Josef Wolf
  • Patti Love as Eda Fiszer Lichtman
  • Judith Sharp as Bajle Sobol
  • Ellis Van Maarseveen as Selma Wijnberg-Engel
  • David Miller (actor) as Mundek
  • Jack Chissick as Hershel Zuckerman
  • Ned Vukovic as Morris
  • Sara Sugarman as Naomi
  • Peter Jonfield as Kapo Sturm
  • Dijana Kržanić as Esther Terner
  • Irfan Mensur as Kalimali
  • Zoran Stojiljković as Boris
  • Svetolik Nikačević as Old Man
  • Miša Janketić as Oberkapo Berliner
  • Dejan Čavić as Kapo Spitz
  • Zlatan Fazlagić as Weiss
  • Predrag Milinković as Kapo Jacob
  • Bozidar Pavićević as Ivan Klatt
  • Howard K. Smith as Narrator (American version)

See also

  • List of survivors of Sobibor
  • List of Holocaust films
  • The Grey Zone (2001), movie about the Auschwitz_concentration_camp#Birkenau_revolt


Category:1987 television films
Category:1980s drama films
Category:1980s war films
Category:Best Miniseries or Television Movie Golden Globe winners
Category:British drama films
Category:British war films
Category:British television films
Category:CBS network shows
Category:Films based on actual events
Category:Films based on novels
Category:Films directed by Jack Gold
Category:Films set in 1943
Category:Films set in Poland
Category:Films shot in Serbia
Category:Holocaust films
Category:ITV television programmes
Category:Prison films
Category:Sobibór extermination camp
Category:World War II films
Jack Gold

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