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Samuel Lerer

Samuel LererSamuel Lerer (Zolkiewka 1 October 1922) was one of the first prisoners to arrive in Sobibor. He was ordered to look after the horses and this gave him access to much of the camp. During the uprising both his brothers were killed. Etched in his mind is ‘how my father went to the gas chamber naked’.

In the camp he also had to fatten up ducks for SS officer Frenzel. After the war in Berlin he and Esther Raab exposed SS officer Bauer, the operator of the gas engine. Samuel Lerer moved to Brooklyn in the United States, where he worked as a taxi driver. He is currently living in Marlboro, New Jersey USA and has survived to know two children, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and one on the way.




stable hand in Sobibor
In May 1942 nineteen-year-old Samuel Lerer from the Polish town of Zolkiewa together with his parents, his three brothers and his sister, was rounded up and taken to Sobibor. He and his brothers were put to work as Arbeitsjuden, the other members of the family were gassed immediately upon arrival in the camp. Under the supervision of a Ukrainian guard Lerer worked in the stable, which housed the camp commander’s riding horses. Later he had to tend to the chickens. In comparison with most of the other prisoners he had a degree of freedom of movement and sometimes he could even go outside the camp with the horses. Also inside the camp itself he was allowed to be in both Lager I and Lager II, if his stable work required it. When he still worked as a stable hand, Lerer was not required to attend roll call regularly.

St. Bernard Barry
On more than one occasion Lerer saw how the infamous SS officer Frenzel severely beat or even killed prisoners over nothing. One day Lerer witnessed how Frenzel shot and killed a thirteen-year-old boy, on whom he had found some food, in cold blood. He also saw how Frenzel found a sick man in the prisoners’ barracks during an inspection. He dragged him out of the barracks and shot him outside. Another type of terror for the Arbeitsjuden were the SS dogs. There were three, including the St. Bernard Barry and the German shepherd Zeppel. Barry was extremely aggressive and trained to bite prisoners. Lerer saw the animal attack people several times.

Samuel LererAfter the uprising on 14 October 1943 Lerer fled into the forest, both of his brothers were shot dead during their escape. Together with other escapees, including Esther Raab, he hid near the town of Chelm. When the Red Army drew near, they went via Lublin and Stettin to Berlin, where in 1946 he and Raab recognized the Gasmeister of Sobibor, Ernst Bauer, on the street and reported him to the local police. For his crimes Bauer was sentenced to death by the court; after the death penalty was abolished this sentence was commuted into a life sentence in 1971. Bauer died in 1980 in the prison of Berlin-Tegel. After living in Berlin for a while, Lerer emigrated to the United States.

At age 94 Samuel Lerer died on 3 March 2016 in his residence Marlboro, New Jersey.

Listen to the interview with Samuel Lerer

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