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BGU Archaeologist Unearths New Findings at Sobibor Death Camp

BGU Archaeologist Unearths New Findings at Sobibor Death Camp

July 11, 2008

Press Releases

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — NOVEMBER 13, 2007 — An archaeologist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Yoram Hami, has unearthed numerous findings from the Sobibor death camp in eastern Poland that will shed more light on what occurred there during the Holocaust. 


The excavation is a joint project that began this month between the Archaeological  Division of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Sobibor Museum in Poland and is being supported by Yad Vashem.  It is directed by Yoram Haimi of BGU and Wojciech Mazurk of Poland.


In Sobibor, between 1942 and 1943, S.S. men and their Ukrainian collaborators murdered approximately 250,000 Jews. The Germans destroyed the camp at the end of 1943.  Many details about how the camp was run will become clear with the findings of this excavation project.  The dig exposes the structure of Camp 3, the part of Sobibor which housed the gas chambers. 


Head of the BGU Archaeological Division, Professor Isaac Gilead, says that “at the outset of the dig, layers of ash, and levels bordered with two thick stripes of black ash containing pieces of burnt branches, were unearthed.  These were probably fences that marked the boundary area between Camp 2, where the Jews arrived and were robbed of their belongings, and Camp 3, where they were murdered.”   Survivors have testified that the Germans were careful to weave branches through the barbed-wire fences in order to prevent them from seeing what was happening on the other side.


According to Prof. Gilead, so far hundreds of objects have been retrieved from the ash, among them scissors, a metal cigarette case, broken eyeglass frames, and many perfume bottles.  Other metal shards found include parts of barbed-wire fences, door hinges and bullet casings.  Nails and dowels were also uncovered, belonging to the iron tracks of the rail cars that ran from the train platform to the extermination area of Sobibor.  Also found were a penknife, knife and blade sharpener. “It is probable that this area was next to the barrack in which women’s hair was cut, from which they were then led to the gas chambers,” Gilead said.


An Israel production company, Highlight Films, produced “Revealing the Unforgotten,” a film that documents the excavations of the dig and which will be made available in November 2008.  Director Amos Rafaeli is following the findings of this archaeological excavation and what it exposes about the Sobibor death camp. 

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University’s expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) celebrates its 50th birthday this year, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond.

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