Poland / Ukrainian Border


For the purposes of this tourist and cultural guidebook, we will not linger on the extermination camps, which are “documents to barbarity”, as Walter Benjamin put it, and not to culture. Yet we must mention some of them at least, as we seek to comprehend the incomprehensible, to grasp through their images that which ultimately cannot be grasped.

In Sobibór, there are in a sense two different villages. Sobibór proper is a sleepy, peaceful little town with a small Catholic church along the Bug. To see what remains of the camp, you need to go to Sobibór-Stacja, Kolejowa (Sobibór Railway Station), a mile or two from here, accessible only through the forest. The forest is huge, and one must admit, magnificent. If, as Claude Lanzmann put it, every landscape in Poland breathes the Shoah, this is especially true around here.

On the other side of the forest, the road is blocked by a barrier. A sign reads SOBIBÓR, in the station, another sign reads WAITING ROOM. Besides the station agent and a woodworking company, the place is completely desolate. It was here that for a year and a half, from March 1942 to October 1943, convoys arrived from Poland and beyond, packed with 250000 Jews who were immediately gassed. All that remains today are the ramp, a monument, and a small museum. A short walk to the site of the camp itself yields only a sort of circular tumulus.

The site was well documented in the film Sobibór, October 14, 1943, 4 P.M. by Claude Lanzmann.