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“Archaeology and The Holocaust” — A Special Kristallnacht Program by the Greenberg Center


Posted 10/25/2013
Posted by David Isgur

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The University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies will host a talk by renowned archaeologist Yoram Haimi on the landmark excavations project at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland. The program, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m., in Wilde Auditorium, (on the lower level of the Harry Jack Gray Center) University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford.

Since 2008, Haimi and his colleague, Polish archeologist, Wojtek Mazurek, have teamed up to lead a series of excavations to uncover the remains of the Sobibor extermination camp, buried by the Nazis after the October 14, 1943 revolt by Jewish prisoners at the camp.  The excavation project is an unprecedented collaboration in Holocaust research, in cooperation with the State Museum at Majdanek, the Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation, and the Sobibor Steering Committee representing Poland, Israel, The Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.

Tickets, which are required, can be reserved by calling the University of Hartford box office at 860.768.4228. The lecture follows the Oct. 14 screening of the documentary work in progress, Deadly Deception at Sobibor, by Gary Hochman.

Beginning in 2008, Haimi and Mazurek launched a geophysical survey with high tech electronics to map the area with historians Richard Freund and Avi Patt from the University of Hartford’s Greenberg Center, geoscientists Paul Bauman and Brad Hansen from Worley Parsons in Canada, and geographer Phil Reeder from Duquesne University.  Their unique sub-surface mapping detected the first hidden clues – electronic signatures of manmade “objects” and trenches – indicating prime areas to begin excavating in the dense woods. 

With the electronic maps as a guide, Haimi and Mazurek have led their team in a series of systematic excavations, in which they have uncovered clues to key features of the death camp:  a walled corridor snaking through the camp called the Himmelfahrstrasse (Road to Heaven), barracks, clues pointing to the location of the gas chamber, a possible escape tunnel constructed by Jewish prisoners, and hundreds of artifacts from Jewish victims murdered at the camp.

Yoram Haimi’s archaeological research seeks to piece together clues to one of the greatest crimes in modern history – a killing factory for the Nazi’s infamous Final Solution.  Shrouded in secrecy, it was set up along a remote railroad line, far from the preying eyes of the public.  Sobibor’s sole purpose was extermination.  In just 18 horrifying months, more than 250,000 Jews and other undesirables were brought here by train and killed in gas chambers. 

But on October 14, 1943, the murders came to an abrupt end.  Prisoners launched a daring revolt, luring 11 guards into barracks and slaying them.  Then, more than 300 Jews fled in a mass escape.  Only 52 survived.  Today, eight remain.

In an attempt to keep the revolt a secret, the Nazis dismantled Sobibor, erasing all trace of the camp.  Trees were planted – and today, a forest covers the Nazi’s crimes.  For nearly 70 years, the victims of Sobibor have remained nameless.  But now, Yorak Haimi, Wojtek Mazurek, and their team are uncovering what the Nazis tried to wipe from history.

Haimi has a personal stake in revealing the scene of the crime, as he lost two uncles at Sobibor. On a visit to pay his respects, he realized that the decades old forest likely preserved whatever evidence the Nazis left behind. 

For more information, please contact:  860.768.4964 or mgcjs@hartford.edu.