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A Promise at Sobibór: A Jewish Boy’s Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland Paperback – November 30, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Most of the Nazi concentration camps were brutal slave-labor facilities, in which the deaths resulted from disease, malnutrition, and the sheer brutality of daily life. Sobibor, on the other hand, was designed from inception as an extermination camp. Located within a forested area in Poland, Sobibor had a full array of sophisticated equipment for mass murder, and an estimated 250,000 Jews were killed there in 1942 and 1943. In October 1943, camp inmates revolted, killing guards and staging a mass escape. Few of them survived. Philip Bialowitz, now a retired jeweler living in New York, was one of them. His story, told with the aid of his son Joseph, is riveting, horrifying, and inspiring. Philip’s life in a tiny Polish town before the Nazi invasion was tolerable but tense due to touchy relations between the Jewish and gentile communities. Life in Sobibor is vividly described as hell on earth, and the violent revolt provides an almost joyful emotional release as Jews strike back at their tormentors. This is a superb account of survival and redemption as seen through the eyes of a teenage boy. --Jay Freeman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Bialowitz heard the leader call out, ‘If you survive, bear witness to what happened here! Tell the world about this place!’ In this harrowing first-person account, the author fulfills the promise he made then.”—Kirkus Reviews


“The testimony of a survivor of the Sobibór extermination camp is extraordinarily important because of the circumstances that it recounts. But it is really the personality of the author and his narrative talent that make it very special.”—Jan T. Gross, Princeton University


“Riveting, horrifying, and inspiring. . . . This is a superb account of survival and redemption as seen through the eyes of a teenage boy.”—Booklist
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 218 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (February 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299248046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299248048
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,959,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Design Ideas on December 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It is sad to think that we live in an age where there are people (even so-called world leaders) who persist in denying that the Holocust ever happened. This book is an easy to read and plain language accounting of what happened in the Sobibor death camp. Mr Bialowitz was a teenager who was imprisoned at Sobibor for six months and he and his older brother were lucky enough to have survived the biggest serious prisoner uprising at any of the extermination camps. He is devoting his later years to fulfilling the promise to tell his first hand accounting of the horrors that took place there. This book should be a must read for just about anyone who wants to know and understand the truth of the atrocities of the Nazi death camps. It really should become required reading for school children around the world who need to learn and understand the truth.
It is a fascenating book that you will not be able to put dow until you finish it.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Baron on December 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Incredible autobiography of Phillip Bialowitz, who as a 16 year old was one of the escapees from the notorious Nazi death camp Sobibor. The book has chapters on life in rural eastern Poland before the Nazi invasion, what life was like during the Nazi occupation, and the inhumane and horrid conditions inside Sobibor. Phillip was a witness to the duplicity and atrocities committed by the Nazis, and which he describes in vivid detail. Good portrayal of his family members, his friends, and the despicable Nazis at Sobibor. The adventure highlight of the book is the daring escape from the hell of Sobibor. Phillip relates how the escape was pulled off, and his experiences as a resistance fighter. The latter chapters are devoted to his life after the war, and his eventual emigration to the United States. Highly readable. Highly recommended for a first hand account of what hell is.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Hugh R. Winig on April 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Like all Holocaust readings, this book is sad beyond belief for the painful memories it shares. But Philip Bialowitz and his son Joseph have made a great contribution with this frank and explicit telling of the elder Bialowitz's unimaginable tale of survival from Sobibor, a Nazi concentration camp, and his subsequent life and the keeping of his promise to reveal what happened in that hell-hole after he escaped. Written in the first person, it feels like you are sitting in a room with the author and hearing from him first-hand.

It is a testament to the human spirit that the author not only survived but has had the strength to live such a purposeful and meaningful life after the traumas that he experienced as a teenager at Sobibor. This is a book worth reading for anyone, but I especially recommend it for teenagers in order for them to understand how someone their age could overcome such heartbreaking circumstances and never give up hope.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dee Gee on August 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This account by a survivor of the Nazi death machine is so incredible and harrowing that at times one fails to understand how any human being could survive such abuse, even if the physical body prevails, it seems the spirit would collapse. Highly readable and gripping, it is a must read for every--yes every--human being who thinks. In particular, give it to young people old enough (most likely teens) to have the ability to understand it and its implications for what human beings are capable of--both the exalted and the demonic. Told without drama, if such a thing is possible, it recounts the experiences as they were lived. If you are not moved by this account to strengthen your compassion and vigilance for human rights, nothing will accomplish those worthy aims. A fascinating, heartbreaking, mind-altering read. Get it, share it, don't ever forget it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Yamaguchi on April 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
After reading and seeing the movie, Escape From Sobibor, I sought more personal accounts and this book was listed. A Promise At Sobibor is a well-written and gripping story of one young survivor's account of his life as a Jew during the holocaust, specifically at Sobibor, Poland. Bialowitz and his son retell the whole progression from a normal life to the ever-tightening Nazi noose to eliminate all Jews to extermination camp to escape to survival to rebuilding a life. It is very enlightening to hear the accounts about the Polish people who helped or hurt the Jews and what had to be done to survive and how sometimes you had no control but were chosen to survive. This book provides so much valuable information that is not well-known. A great and valuable read, especially for young people.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pat Gallagher on January 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
What a very frank and graphic retelling of the Nazi occupation and death camps. I've read many stories of the Holocaust, but none that brought me into every moment, as your book did.

Your bravery is understated by yourself. I am so glad you survived to tell your story and that of everyone else. I think it is one of the very best, very honest, and very heartfelt recounts I have ever read.

All the best to you, Mr. Bialowitz, and thank you so much for dedicating the time to not only making appearances and giving talks, but also to writing a stellar book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Todd and In Charge VINE VOICE on June 19, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a student of the Holocaust and after reading many survivor testimonies, I can say without qualification this may be one of the finest accounts of its kind that I have ever read.

Powerfully written, without pretense or exaggeration and in an understated, almost muted manner, the author recounts life in pre-war Poland, the dramatic sweep of the war in its earliest stages, and then the horrors of the death camps, including a remarkable first-person account of the prisoner revolt at Sobibor. Incredible.

I also found his post-war account of the dangers of Jews attempting to return to their homes in Poland, as well as the conditions and life in the Displaced Persons camps, to be fascinating.

I'm struck by how this man and his brother survived through a combination of grit, smarts, luck, the generosity and kindness of family, friends and strangers, and sheer determination -- it is truly an amazing story that cannot be missed. Thank you for sharing this.
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