Philip Bialowitz, the last remaining Polish Jew to survive the infamous German Nazi death camp Sobibor, passed away on Saturday.
Philip passed away at the age of 90, in a Florida hospice, surrounded by his four children.
In 1943, he joined a small group of Jews who overpowered their captors and staged an open revolt freeing hundreds of prisoners.
When the revolt at Sobibor began, Philip was standing with his fellow prisoners when he saw the revolt’s two leaders stand upon a table and call out to everyone: “If you survive, bear witness! Tell the world about this place!” Philip devoted much of the rest of his life to performing this sacred duty.
He traveled the world, relating his eyewitness account to thousands of children and adults, and honoring the memories of the 250,000 Jews who perished and the few who survived thanks to what he called “the fighting spirit of the Jewish people.”
Rabbi Shalom Stambler of the Chabad of Warsaw remembers Phillip as "the perfect example of a real, happy, living Jew."
"Whenever he was with us on Shabbat meals, he would sing the famous cantorial piece 'Have mercy L-rd our G-d, have mercy on the people of Israel," recalls Rabbi Stambler. "Hearing this from such a man, with all he went through in his angelic voice would leave us all in tears."
"He was so alive! He would meet with all those who asked and get involved in every initiative, each time he would find the words to fit the group he was speaking too. He wanted to visit every Chabad in the world, to share his story. He too was so proud of the fact that one of his daughters was an Orthodox Jew living in Israel, blessed with a large family," continued Rabbi Stambler.
His acclaimed book, A Promise at Sobibor, recounted his life story, from his childhood in pre-war Poland, to his teenage years during the Second World War, to his post-war years dedicated to creating a family, helping the community, bringing the Nazi perpetrators to justice, and remembering and teaching about the Holocaust.
Philip would often tell people that he had “a mission to perform.” While not always easy, he faithfully and vigorously fulfilled his obligation to the victims and heroes of Sobibor.
Jonny Daniels, founder of the Holocaust commemoration foundation From the Depths, wrote on Facebook:
"I had the honor to meet Philip numerous times, with former Deputy Minister of education for the State of Israel Avi Wortzman, at Treblinka extermination camp and most memorably at Chabad in Warsaw, where I learnt of his love of Chazanut, Jewish music. He always had a smile on his face and was always so open and willing to speak of his difficult past.
"Now is our turn to stand as his witness."
"Yehi Zichro Baruch - May he rest in peace."