Heartfelt tributes have been paid to the last living Holocaust survivor of notorious Sobibor concentration camp in Poland.
Semyon Rosenfeld, 97, one of only 47 people to escape the death camp, passed away at the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot on Monday.
Semyon had been living in a retirement community in Yad Binyamin Rosenfeld.
“May his memory be blessed,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his Facebook page.
MK Yair Lapid, Blue and White party, saluted his memory, adding, “may we be worthy of his death with our lives”.
Isaac Herzog, Jewish Agency chairman described Rosenfeild as a “true hero”.
“It is our duty to transmit from generation to generation the story of his life and all those of his generation,” he added.
World Jewish Congress said Rosenberg was a hero who risked his own life resisting the Nazi ‘Final Solution.’
“Defying all odds, he eluded the relentless dragnet that claimed the lives of most of those who took part in the revolt,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder.
“His very survival is a testament to the resistance of the Jewish people against hatred, and he lived the remainder of his life as a proud Jew in the Soviet Union and eventually in the Jewish State.”
He added, “As the years pass and the number of survivors dwindles, it is more important than ever to educate future generations about the horrors of the Holocaust.
“Today, sadly, there is nobody left to tell the story of Sobibor first-hand. We must step in and continue to share the testimonies of those who lost their lives, and those who lived with its memory until their dying days.
“The chilling story of what went on in Sobibor and other sites of mass murder must always remain clear and serve as a warning of the murderous potential of anti-Semitism”.
Born 1922 in Ternivka, a small village in Ukraine, Semyon joined the Red Army in 1940, fighting the Nazis, who murdered his extended family.
Semyon later discovered they were buried in a mass grave near his home town.
Captured in 1941, Semyon was sent to a labour camp in Minsk, Belarus, with 230 Jewish prisoners then in 1943 to Sobibor near Włodawa.
In an interview, he recalled lying to the Nazis about having a profession, which saved his life.
Shortly after his arrival, Semyon asked about the whereabouts of the prisoners he’d arrived with at the camp, a German officer pointed to smoke coming from the crematorium.
Over 250,000 Jews were murdered between April 1942 and October 1943.
During that latter month, Rosenfeld was among a group of 300 prisoners, led by Red Army officer Aleksandr “Sasha” Pechersky, who attempted to liberate the camp.
Pechersky asked the 21-year-old if he could kill a man with an axe, Rosenfeld replied that he couldn’t kill a man but could kill a Nazi.
The group killed 11 Nazi officers, but guards fought back and only 47 survived the coming days.
Semyon survived, hiding in woods with fellow prisoners until the spring of 1944 when he rejoined the Red Army and went on to help capture Berlin.
The Nazis took apart the camp at the end of 1944, but ultimately failed to hide its deadly secrets by planting trees in the area.
The historic event is recalled in a 1987 film, “Escape from Sobibor”.
Returning to the Ukraine, Rosenfeld made aliyah in 1990.
He is survived by two sons and five grandchildren in Israel and the United States.
By Leah Waxler