TREBLINKA, Poland (JTA) – The last surviving prisoner of Treblinka was among those in attendance for a commemoration of the Jewish uprising at the Nazi extermination camp in Poland.
“We burned in hell,” said Samuel Willenberg said at Sunday’s ceremony on the 72nd anniversary of the outbreak of the uprising. Some 200 prisoners escaped, but hundreds were killed while trying to flee.
Among those joining Willenberg at the ceremony organized by Poland’s Jewish Historical Institute was the newly appointed spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, who read Psalm 23 in Polish and Hebrew. Rytel-Andrianik was born in Sokolow Podlaski, near Treblinka. He studied in Jerusalem for several years and speaks 16 languages.
Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich read the El Maleh Rachamim prayer and Rabbi Stas Wojciechowicz said the Mourners’ Kaddish.
In conjunction with the ceremony, an exhibition was opened displaying photos taken since 2007 that document the exhumation of mass graves in Treblinka. Pieces of jewelry and a shoe found in the mass grave also were on display.
As a result of the revolt by Treblinka prisoners, the Germans started to close down the camp, which stopped functioning in November 1943.