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Sophie Verduin

"the Jews were thrown on tippers "
In March 1943 sixteen-year-old Sophie Verduin was taken to Westerbork. She did not stay long in the camp; after three days she left on a transport to Sobibor. Upon arrival she and other women were taken to a fenced-off section of the camp and she witnessed ‘how the Jews were thrown on tippers and then beaten and shot to death’. After several hours Sophie and the other women were put on a transport to Lublin, where she had to work sorting clothes. In September she and her sister Lena together four other Dutch women were moved to the Blizyn labour camp to work as knitters in the Strickerei. Besides the six Dutch women only Polish Jews worked here. Sophie was one of the two Dutch women who survived this camp; the others, Lena among them, died there of tuberculosis.

When Sophie was put to work in Blizyn, a massacre was taking place in the surrounding area. A little more than two weeks after the Sobibor uprising, in early November, Himmler, afraid there might be more riots, ordered all Jews in extermination camp Majdanek, the larger labour camps Trawniki and Poniatowa, and several smaller camps, including Blizyn, to be shot. The operation took place on 3 and 4 November 1943 under the code name Erntefest. The Jewish work details that had to burn and bury the dead were also killed after they were done. In all, more than 42,000 people died.

In the spring of 1944 Sophie was taken to Radom, where she worked on the land in the neighbouring Szkolna camp. After three months she was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she stayed until the end of the year. On New Year’s Eve she was taken to Bergen-Belsen. Here she was liberated by British troops on 15 April.

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