Thomas Blatt, Sobibor escapee who testified against Demjanjuk, dies at 88


(JTA) — Thomas Blatt, one of the few Jews to escape the Nazis’ Sobibor death camp and a key witness against camp guard John Demjanjuk, has died.

Blatt, who escaped Sobibor in a group uprising in 1943, died Saturday at his home in Santa Barbara, California, The Associated Press reported. He was 88.

READ: Sobibor survivor testifies in Demjanjuk trial 

Blatt was born in 1927 Izbica, a Polish town that was largely Jewish and Yiddish-speaking, and was imprisoned in the ghetto with his family and the town’s other Jews before being taken to Sobibor in 1943. His parents and brother were murdered upon arrival at the camp.

Six months after arriving at Sobibor, Blatt was one of 300 prisoners to participate in the uprising and escape, in which many Nazis were killed. Blatt was one of approximately 60 escapees to survive the war, however; the others were caught and brought back to the camp or killed on the spot.

READ: Behind the Headlines: Remembering Sobibor 40 years later

Blatt immigrated to the United States after the war and ran three electronics stores in the Santa Barbara area. He gave frequent talks about the Holocaust and authored two books about the death camp, which was located on the outskirts of the Polish village of Sobibor.

In a 2010 interview with AP, Blatt said he still experienced nightmares and depression related to his Holocaust experiences.

“I never escaped from Sobibor. I’m still there — in my dreams, in everything,” Blatt said. “My point of reference is always Sobibor.”

Demjanjuk died in 2012 while he was awaiting an appeal of his conviction the previous year by a Munich court for his role in the murder of 27,900 people at Sobibor.

Blatt is survived by three children and several grandchildren.

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