Xpress Reviews—First Look at New Books, December 10, 2010
A Promise at Sobibor: A Jewish Boy's Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland
Bialowitz survived the Holocaust thanks to determination, intelligence, the kindness of Polish gentiles, and a great amount of luck. While his account here spans his life from young adulthood in pre–World War II Poland to his postwar life in the United States, the focus, and the most interesting part of his memoir, is his part in one of the most dramatic moments of the Nazi era. Imprisoned in Sobibór, a death camp in Poland, Bialowitz participated in the largest successful prisoner revolt of the Holocaust. That he survived both the revolt and the war as a whole, along with several siblings, makes his story a rare one.
Verdict: Many Holocaust memoirs suffer from the inclusion of historical-contextual material that is post facto additions to historical memory. Bialowitz, with his son and coauthor, worked assiduously to ensure that his story was told from a perspective contemporary to his experiences then and not based on hindsight. Overall, he succeeds, making this a worthy addition to the corpus of Holocaust memoirs.—Frederic Krome, Univ. of Cincinnati Clermont Coll.
- Philip Bialowitz
- Philip Bialowitz was the last remaining Polish Jewish survivor of the infamous Nazi death camp, Sobibór, where an estimated 250,000 people perished between 1942 and 1943. There, Mr. Bialowitz joined a small group of Jewish prisoners who overpowered their captors and freed approximately 200 of the camp’s 600 slave laborers. Mr. Bialowitz lectured frequently to diverse audiences in North America, Europe and Israel (including members of Israel's Officer Corps and Diplomatic Corps) about both his experiences at Sobibór and the continued importance of mutual respect among people of different beliefs. He testified at several war crimes trials. Mr. Bialowitz’ memoir was published in English (title: A Promise at Sobibór: A Jewish Boy’s Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland) and in Polish (title: Bunt w Sobibórze). A curriculum based on Mr. Bialowitz’s book was developed for Polish schools by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. After the Holocaust, Mr. Bialowitz trained in Germany to be a dentist but eventually settled in New York City, where he worked as a jeweler. He died peacefully, surrounded by his four surviving children, in 2016.