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Assessments of Threat and Collective Action: Jewish Resistance in Ghettos and Death Camps during the Holocaust
Unformatted Document Text:  the daily work force of prisoners numbered around 500, the life span for any individual prisoner was quite short; work groups were only kept for a few weeks before prisoners weakened and were killed and then replaced with newly arrived prisoners (Arad 1987). Beginning in November 1942, toward the end of the arrival of the transports at the camp, mass graves were dug up and their remains cremated. Such work was the task of a special “death brigade” of 150 Jewish prisoners (O’Neil 1998/9). The camp was finally dismantled in March 1943, and the remaining 300 Jewish prisoners were sent to Sobibór, where they were murdered. One prisoner, Chaim Hirszman, escaped from the transport to Sobibór, thereby becoming one of only two known survivors of Bełżec (Arad 1987; O’Neil 1989/9). Hirszman gave only one day of testimony on his experiences at Bełżec. He was murdered in Lublin, Poland on March 19, 1946, after returning home from his first day of testimony to the Jewish Historical Commission (Libionka 2006; Rubel 2000). The other, a prisoner named Rudolf Reder, had been a prisoner in the camp for a few months when he was sent out of the camp for work detail, from which he escaped. Reder managed to survive the war and eventually emigrated to Canada, dying in Toronto in 1968 (Duffy 2007). As the sole survivor of Bełżec able to give testimony about the camp, his descriptions of camp life have been vital to the study and understanding of what happened there. Reder’s testimony indicates that not only were prisoners at Bełżec well aware of the purpose and activities of the camp, but Jews who had not yet been deported to the camp also knew exactly what would be waiting for them when they arrived (see also Tregenza 1977). For instance, his testimony describes the scene in his town of Lemberg (Lvóv) in August 1942: 16

Authors: Einwohner, Rachel. and Maher, Thomas.
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the daily work force of prisoners numbered around 500, the life span for any individual prisoner 
was quite short; work groups were only kept for a few weeks before prisoners weakened and 
were killed and then replaced with newly arrived prisoners (Arad 1987).  Beginning in 
November 1942, toward the end of the arrival of the transports at the camp, mass graves were 
dug up and their remains cremated.  Such work was the task of a special “death brigade” of 150 
Jewish prisoners (O’Neil 1998/9).  The camp was finally dismantled in March 1943, and the 
remaining 300 Jewish prisoners were sent to Sobibór, where they were murdered.  One prisoner, 
Chaim Hirszman, escaped from the transport to Sobibór, thereby becoming one of only two 
known survivors of Bełżec (Arad 1987; O’Neil 1989/9).  Hirszman gave only one day of 
testimony on his experiences at Bełżec.  He was murdered in Lublin, Poland on March 19, 1946, 
after returning home from his first day of testimony to the Jewish Historical Commission 
(Libionka 2006; Rubel 2000).  The other, a prisoner named Rudolf Reder, had been a prisoner in 
the camp for a few months when he was sent out of the camp for work detail, from which he 
escaped.  Reder managed to survive the war and eventually emigrated to Canada, dying in 
Toronto in 1968 (Duffy 2007).   As the sole survivor of Bełżec able to give testimony about the 
camp, his descriptions of camp life have been vital to the study and understanding of what 
happened there.
Reder’s testimony indicates that not only were prisoners at Bełżec well aware of the 
purpose and activities of the camp, but Jews who had not yet been deported to the camp also 
knew exactly what would be waiting for them when they arrived (see also Tregenza 1977).  For 
instance, his testimony describes the scene in his town of Lemberg (Lvóv) in August 1942:
16


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