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Pechersky, Alexander

PECHERSKY, ALEXANDER

PECHERSKY, ALEXANDER (1919– ), Jewish lieutenant in the Soviet army who organized and successfully led the revolt in the Nazi death camp of *Sobibor. The uprising was a heroic chapter in the history of anti-Nazi resistance and led to the survival of some 50 inmates of Sobibor.

Born in Kremenchung, he moved as a child to Rostovon-Don. Pechersky was trained as a musician before he was drafted into the Soviet army when German forces invaded Soviet Russia in the summer of 1941. In October 1941 he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned. He contracted typhoid but managed to conceal it from his captors, to avoid certain death. In May 1942, he managed to escape. He was caught again and sent to Borishov. An examination revealed that he was circumcised – Jewish. He was sent to the SS Sheroka Street camp in Minsk and then, in September 1943, when the Minsk ghetto was destroyed, he was sent to Sobibor. He arrived along with 79 other Soviet Pows. He alone was selected to work on construction. The remainder were gassed on arrival. There, together with six other Jews, he immediately started to prepare a detailed plan for a revolt, which was executed on October 14, 1943. Pechersky's men attacked the German officers, killing ten of them. With the weapons taken from the dead officers the prisoners killed or wounded 38 Ukrainian guards. Of the 600 camp inmates, about half escaped, but many of them were killed in the surrounding minefields or as a result of the large-scale manhunt organized by the Germans and by Polish fascists. Shortly afterward, the camp was dismantled. Pechersky and a group of his comrades succeeded in escaping and reaching the Soviet partisans. Later he rejoined the Soviet army and was seriously wounded in August 1944. He was demobilized and returned to his hometown. He was a major witness at the 1963 trial of 11 Ukrainian guards who had served at Sobibor.

bibliography:

Y. Suhl (ed.), They Fought Back (1967), 7–50; Ainsztein, in: jsos, 28 (1966), 19–24; idem, in: Jewish Observer and Middle East Review (April 23, 1965), 14–22; Lev, in: Sovetish Heym-land, 2 (1964), 78–93; V. Tomin and A. Sinelnikov, Vozvrashcheniyenezhelatel'no (1964). add. bibliography: Y. Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: Operation Reinhard Camps (1987).

[Yosef Guri]

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