Scrapbookpages Blog

February 17, 2014

Why were Dutch Jews sent to Sobibor, passing up Auschwitz and Majdanek?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:44 am
Map of Nazi extermination camps

Map of Nazi extermination camps

The six extermination camps of the Holocaust are shown on the map above; each death camp is indicated by a small photo of a skull and crossbones. Note that the Sobibor death camp is shown on the far right hand side. Auschwitz and Majdanek, the two major death camps, are west of Sobibor, and closer to the Netherlands.

Sign alongside the railroad tracks for stop at Sobibor

Sign alongside the railroad tracks for stop at Sobibor

Sobibor was a very small camp, which had no gas chambers that used Zyklon-B. At Sobibor, the Jews were killed with carbon monoxide from captured Soviet tanks. There is virtually nothing left of the Sobibor camp, except the Commandant’s house which is across the railroad tracks from the former camp.

The Commandant's house at Sobibor death camp

The Commandant’s house at Sobibor death camp Photo Credit: ARC website

I previously blogged about Sobibor at

I am writing about Sobibor again because this death camp is in the news again. A news article on The Moderate Voice tells the story, which you can read in full at

This quote is from an article entitled The Dutch Auschwitz, which you can read in full at

34,000 Dutch Jews sent to Sobibor

There is little in Sobibor to remind one of the former extermination camp where 34,000 Dutch Jews died. That is going to change, thanks in part to help from the Netherlands.

Anyone who didn’t know better would think they are in a typical Polish hamlet, where clean washing flutters in the wind, farmers on old tractors rumble by and lumbermen lug tree trunks. But Stara Kolonia Sobibór is not typical, nor will it ever be.

During the Second World War this was the site of the German extermination camp Sobibor, where 170,000 Jews, more than 34,000 of them Dutch, were systematically murdered. It is a difficult place to reach, deep in the forests of Poland’s eastern border area, and easy to forget. But that is going to change.

The Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Israel recently agreed on a major ‘renovation’ aimed at opening up the former camp to the outside world and pulling it out of the shadow of the well-known Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in southern Poland.

Does this make any sense to you?  Why Sobibor? There were 4 large gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which used Zyklon-B, and one large gas chamber in the Auschwitz main camp, which also used Zyklon-B.

Why take the Dutch Jews, on passenger trains, farther east and kill them with carbon-monoxide, when they could have been transported in cattle cars to Auschwitz or Majdanek?

The Nazis never did anything that made any sense.  Why did Hitler initially want to make the Me-262 plane a “lighting bomber” instead of a jet fighter plane?

Hitler later changed his mind and made the Me-262 a fighter plane. You can read about this at

The Nazis also changed their minds about Sobibor and this camp was quickly closed up in 1943. The Jews were then sent to the main extermination camps at Auschwitz and Majdanek to be killed in real gas chambers, using Zyklon-B.

Not all of the Dutch Jews were sent to death camps.  Some were sent to the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp, which was divided into several sections. One of these sections was the Star Camp (Sternlager).

Approximately 4,000 Jewish prisoners, mostly from the Netherlands, were sent to the Star camp at Bergen-Belsen, where conditions were somewhat better than in other parts of the camp. In the Star camp, the prisoners wore a yellow Star of David on their own clothes instead of the usual blue and gray striped prison uniform, but they did have to work, even the old people, according to the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Site.

The following quote is from Eberhard Kolb’s book entitled Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to 1945:

From the Dutch “transit camp'” at Westerbork all those inmates were transported to Bergen-Belsen who were on one of the coveted “ban lists”, above all the “Palestine list”, the “South America list”, or the “dual citizenship list”.

Holders of the so-called “Stamp 120000” were also taken to the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp:  Jews with proven connections to enemy states, Jews who had delivered up large properties, diamond workers and diamond dealers who were held back from transportation to an extermination camp but who were not allowed to go abroad, as well as so-called “Jews of merit”. A total of 3670 “exchange Jews” of these categories, always with their families, were deported from Westerbork to Bergen-Belsen in eight transports between January and September 1944.

According to Kolb, there were only 6,000 Dutch Jews who returned home after the war, out of a total of 110,000 who were deported by the Nazis. 20,000 more Dutch Jews survived by going into hiding until the war was over. More than a third of those who survived the camps were inmates of the Bergen-Belsen Star Camp.