In Memory of Thomas Blatt

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 12:00am

We are sad to learn of the passing of Thomas Blatt, a Holocaust survivor who was one of the few people to survive an escape from the Sobibor death camp in 1943. He was 88.

Born April 15, 1927, in Lublin, Poland, Blatt also served as a witness at the 2009 trial of the camp guard John Demjanjuk.

In addition to providing testimony to USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive, he also wrote books and worked to preserve the site of the Polish camp where he participated in a revolt that left many Nazis dead and led to the escape of 300 prisoners. Most were hunted down, but Blatt was among the 60 escapees who managed to elude capture. After the war, he moved to the United States.

During his testimony he gave to the Institute in 1995 Blatt talked about the different ways Jews stood up to the Germans during the uprising.

“I remember people going back to the barracks, picking up the prayer shawls, which they hid under the threat of death, putting them on their head and praying,” he said. “They decided not to escape because they realized there was no salvation outside either. Their families were killed. They didn’t commit suicide probably because the Jewish religion prohibits suicide. But they didn’t want to live. But they put on their prayer shawls and started to pray at the last minute facing the Germans. Probably when the Germans surrounded they, they were praying. They were defying them. We are still Jews who believe in out God. There was a lot of heroism going on.”

USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Stephen Smith said that Blatt’s story is a reminder that people can still act with dignity even during the harshest of circumstances.

“Thomas never gave up hope,” Smith said. “His ability to survive speaks to his unbreakable spirit. And by continuing to write and speak about the uprising, he gave hope to countless others who found themselves in seemingly impossible situations.”