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Simon Srebnik

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Title: Simon Srebnik  
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Subject: Shoah (film), Chełmno extermination camp, List of Holocaust survivors, List of last survivors of historical events
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Simon Srebnik

Simon (Shimon, Szymon) Srebnik (April 10, 1930 – August 16, 2006) was a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor of the Chełmno extermination camp – a Nazi death factory established in occupied Poland during World War II. Srebnik escaped after being shot in the back of his head at close range, two days before the Russians arrived in 1945. His testimony along with that of the few other witnesses was critical to prosecution of camp personnel and other Nazi officials, because of the destruction of evidence by the Germans of their mass extermination of Jews in Chełmno.[1]

Age fifteen at the end of the war, Srebnik testified in June 1945 in the Polish trial of Chełmno personnel. He testified again about Chełmno in the 1961 trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem, and in the Chełmno trials in Germany (1962–1965) of the former SS men from the SS Special Detachment Kulmhof.[2]


Ghetto and camp

Srebnik witnessed his father killed in the Łódź Ghetto. He was thirteen years old when he and his mother were deported to the Chelmno extermination camp. His mother was killed in a gas van. The camp SS selected Simon to work with a Jewish work-detail which incinerated bodies of the victims in open-air crematoriums.[2]

Being only 13 and a half, Srebnik was given a nickname "Spinnefix" (quick spider) by the Germans. During his time in the camp, he participated in the disposal of evidence of genocide. He took part in the gathering of crushed bones and ashes of gassing victims.[3] He helped take the sacks away at night. He rowed a flat-bottomed boat on the Ner River where the sacks were being emptied into water. While rowing, Srebnik used to entertain the Nazi SS guards by singing Prussian military songs which they taught him. Srebnik also won jumping contests and speed races which the SS organized for chained prisoners to participate in. The SS usually killed those who lost.

On January 18, 1945, two days before Soviet troops arrived and liberated the camp, the Germans shot and killed most Jewish Sonderkommando prisoners who took part in the disposal of Holocaust evidence. Despite being shot in the head like the others, Srebnik alone survived.[1][4] According to his own testimony, the German bullet missed the spine ("vital brain centers") and exited through his mouth without substantial blood loss.[2]

He testified about Chełmno at trial held in Łódź, Poland in 1945. Later, Srebnik emigrated to Ness Ziona, Israel.[5]

Life in Israel

After his emigration to Israel, Srebnik lived in a Kibbutz and went into the military service. He took part in four wars he said.[3] He and two other survivors of Chełmno testified at the 1961 Adolf Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem (session 66-68).[6] In addition, he testified in the Chełmno Guard Trials, which were conducted in Germany from 1962–1965.[2] He was interviewed by the French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann for his controversial documentary Shoah. (1985) According to the Jerusalem Post, Srebnik died in Israel in 2006 at age 76.


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