Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

Sobibor - Wlodowa (SOB)

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5079 | Film ID: 4674, 4675, 4676, 4677, 4678, 4679, 4680, 4681, 4682, 4683, 4684, 4685, 4686, 4687, 4688, 4689, 4690, 4691, 4692

Interviews with local Polish people around Sobibor, Poland, including long sequences of a Catholic mass in Wlodowa. Lanzmann asks about the Jews in Wlodawa before the war and inquires how non-Jewish residents got along with the Jews. Includes shots of the Sobibor camp and environs.

FILM ID 4674 -- White 15 Sobibor Gare
CU, elderly woman and man sit indoors at the Sobibor train station. “Sobibor” sign. Local people sit on benches outside waiting for train. A train pulls into the station. End clapperboard: SOB 1. 01:03:03 Passengers look out the windows of the railway cars as the train departs from the station. End clapperboard: SOB 3. 01:04:54 More shots of the EXT of the railway station, another train arrives. Clapperboard: SOB 6. 01:07:03 Different views of a train departing from the Sobibor station. 01:08:18 Lanzmann and a female assistant run across the tracks gesturing to the cameraman to turn around and film the last railcar. Crew and soundman signal end of roll. 01:09:12 Another train on the tracks. 01:09:39 End

FILM ID 4675 -- White 15 Sobibor Gare Chutes Bte 15
INT, elderly couple inside the Sobibor station. End clapperboard: ALEPH Holocauste / Lanzmann-Glasberg / SOB 4. EXT shots of the “Sobibor” sign at the railway station. Unidentified crew-member signals the end of camera roll SOB 5. No picture until 01:01:30, brief sequence of a woman walking along the grassy tracks. 01:01:36 Moving shots along the tree-lined railway tracks. 01:03:53 End

FILM ID 4676 -- White 15 Sobibor Gare Chutes Bte 16 Sobibor Foret
Forest surrounding Sobibor train station (trims). 01:00:57 End

FILM ID 4677 -- Sobibor Bte 16 Coupe Piwonski Bois
Mr. Piwonski smokes a cigarette outdoors at the Sobibor railway station. Lanzmann and Barbara join Mr. Piwonski on the bench (silent shots). They converse. Camera zooms in on them, CU of “Sobibor” sign. Different angle of the three of them on the bench. 01:08:51 End

FILM ID 4678 -- White 15 Sobibor Gare Chutes SOB 30A Piwonski
More shots of the railway station, with Claude, Barbara, and Piwonski standing in the grass by the tracks. 01:01:20 Clapperboard: SOB 30. The three sit on a bench, and walk back and forth across the tracks, gesturing (silent). End clapperboard: SOB 30. 01:05:52 End

FILM ID 4679 -- Sobibor SOB 30 Piwonski Gare
Mute shots of the Sobibor station house; Claude, Barbara, and Piwonski approach the tracks and the station. 01:01:26 End.

FILM ID 4680 -- SOB 33-37 L'explique SOB Gare
SOB 33. Lanzmann stands in the center of the railway tracks at the Sobibor train station and describes the history of the camp at Sobibor and the geography of the railway station (no transcript). 01:03:27 SOB 34 Another take of Lanzmann at the tracks. 01:06:33 SOB 35 Take 3. 01:09:46 SOB 36 Take 4, close-up. 01:12:09 SOB 37 Take 5, close-up. Lanzmann laughs. 01:12:55 End

FILM ID 4681 -- White 16 Sobibor Foret Bte 16, Chutes Bte 87 Sobibor Gare
Driving towards Sobibor on a tree-lined, dirt road. Side view of Lanzmann driving. 01:04:05 SOB 61 Snowy train tracks. PKP railcar. Snowing. The train departs the station. 01:07:29 Main station house, railway tracks, zoom into “Sobibor” sign. 01:10:09 End

FILM ID 4682 -- White 17 Sobibor Christ Bte 17 Chutes
Various shots of the statue of Jesus Christ at a crossroads in Sobibor. 01:09:42 Claude stands in front of the statue holding a “Sobibor” sign. Brief, locals at the roadside repairing a signpost. 01:12:20 End

FILM ID 4683 -- White 18 Sobibor Mirador Bte 18
High-angle view of Sobibor forest from the observation tower, ominous clouds, green trees. Logging factory. Railway tracks. 01:02:50 End

FILM ID 4684 -- White 19 Wlodowa Eglise
Sound begins at 01:00:10; no picture until 01:00:39 (a brief shot of the church tower) and picture cuts out again until 01:01:05 Polish parishioners exit the church doors. 01:01:46 SOB 38. Mute shots, EXTs of the church in Wlodowa. Sign: “1 Ul. J. Gagarina” People leaving the Catholic mass, gathered outside the church. 01:06:07 SOB 39 Man kneels by a tree. 01:08:21 Locals (with sound). SOB 40 01:08:45 Street scenes in the town, people with umbrellas. 01:10:57 SOB 41 01:11:35 INT, the crowded church service (sound at first, then cuts out), people standing, various CUs. 01:15:46 BOB 85 Crowd spills outside the church, Catholic mass celebrated in Latin is heard on loudspeakers, people kneel in the grass with umbrellas. 01:17:42 SOB 44 01:17:50 Picture cuts out briefly until 01:18:04. CUs, parishioners under umbrellas outdoors, sounds of the church service cuts in and out. CU, children sharing an umbrella. Baby rocked in carriage. 01:20:35 Man covers the camera with his hand as service continues. Another baby in a stroller. 01:21:43 Elderly woman in kerchief, women and children. Men stand under tree outside of the church in Wlodowa. LS of the crowds gathered at mass. 01:24:06 Several newborns are brought into church to be baptized. SOB 48. 01:25:27 INTs, baptismal service. 01:29:55 Sound cuts out. INTs, church service. SOB 49 01:30:54 End

FILM ID 4685 -- White 20 Wlodowa Ville
SOB 52 Mute travelling shots from a car of the town of Wlodowa including the former homes of Jewish residents and an amusement park. 01:23:25 End

FILM ID 4686 -- White 21 Wlodowa Synagogue
SOB 55 EXT of old Wlodowa synagogue. 01:02:08 SOB 56 Outside the synagogue, Lanzmann asks Filipowicz whether the synagogue is very old, and he replies that the synagogue was built before the Catholic church, and the church is 460 years old. Lanzmann asks how long Jews have lived in Wlodawa, and the man says he has no idea, but that they have always been here. He explains that the Jews are merchants, and almost nomads, and that they arrived here for commerce, stayed, and built the synagogue. The man continues that it is too bad they cannot go inside the synagogue-- it is currently being rehabilitated, and the old paintings inside are being restored. Lanzmann asks for what purpose it is being rehabilitated, and he says that the State is turning it into a museum. He says that Jews came from Palestine and saw the synagogue, which had been turned into shops, and asked for it to be restored. 01:05:18 Coupe, muffled conversation among the crew. 01:05:27 Mute shots of the synagogue. 01:07:04 End

FILM ID 4687 -- SOB 45-47 Interview Sortie Messe Wlodowa
SOB 45 Lanzmann asks one of the church participants whether he knows what Sobibor is. The man, who tells the crew that he is 65, replies that he is from Wlodawa, so of course he does; he was there. At Sobibor, he says, there was a camp where they burned Jews. The man fought on both fronts during the war, and spent time in Wlodawa during the war and during the German occupation. When asked whether there were Jews in Wlodawa at that time, the man replies that there were a great number-- half the population. When the Germans arrived, he explains, they began deporting Jews to the Sobibor camp, as well as to others. Before the war, he says, the Jews in Wlodawa were largely merchants and artisans. They lived all over town, and another man in the crowd of parishioners (Mr. Filipowicz) explains that the streets where Jews once lived have since been renamed. Lanzmann asks Filipowicz whether the Jews knew their fate when they were deported from Wlodawa, and he replies that they could not have known exactly what would befall them. Even before the war, though, he says Jews knew they were doomed. They felt it. When Lanzmann asks whether the man is sad about what happened to the Jews, he replies that every faithful Christian thinks that every human being deserves to live. Lanzmann asks whether he got along with the Jews, and he replies that he did and that the non-Jewish residents of Wlodawa did their best to help Jews when there was a ghetto in the town. He explains that it was a transit ghetto, full of Jews from France and Vienna on their way to Sobibor. The ghetto lasted two years, and was totally closed. The ghetto was overseen by German, Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish police forces. Before the war, the population of Wlodawa was 7500, of whom 4000 were Jews. Shots of the group of Polish men, some of them speak as well.

01:06:10 SOB 46 The man continues on responding to Lanzmann’s questions about a synagogue in Wlodawa. A woman agrees that there was one, and that it was very beautiful. When Poland was still ruled by tsars, the synagogue existed-- it's even older than the Catholic church. Lanzmann asks what has become of the synagogue now that there are no Jews, and they reply that there is still a Jewish family in the town, and that the synagogue has been returned to the state. Lanzmann asks how this family survived the Holocaust, and the gentleman replies that they hid in the forest. He also talks about several families in which the father is Catholic and the mother is Jewish, and the children are raised Catholic. The man cannot remember the names of these families. Lanzmann asks whether there is a Jewish cemetery in Wlodawa, and there were two. The Nazis destroyed the Jewish cemeteries during the war, and after the war, one was turned into a park, where a few of the tombstones still remain visible. Lanzmann asks whether the Jews living in Wlodawa before the war were rich or poor, and he replies that there were all types, but most were small merchants and artisans who were not rich. Lanzmann asks how he experienced, 'the annihilation of the majority of their town's population,' and how he feels about it now. The man replies that they were scared that they would be the next to be targeted. Lanzmann asks whether he prayed for the Jews during that time, and he replies that of course he did. He could not talk about the subject in church, because Germans often waited outside of the church to conduct raids. A church bell rings in the background. Lanzmann asks why the man thinks this all happened to the Jews in particular. The man replies that Hitler's great-grandfather was Jewish, and that Jews assassinated him, so when Hitler became an adult, he decided to avenge his ancestor. Lanzmann makes an allusion to the story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion, and asks whether that might have anything to do with why the gentleman thinks the Jews were exterminated. The man responds that he is not sure, but he is a believer and that when Christ died, he said his death would be avenged, and that he was killed by Jews.

01:13:50 Lanzmann pulls another man out of the group of onlookers, who has something he wants to say. The man wants to make sure that listeners understand that the extermination of Jews took place not only in Wlodawa, but everywhere in Poland. He continues that the Germans simply wanted to exterminate every race that was not their own, starting with the Jews but eventually the Polish people, too. He says that there were two insurrections in Warsaw, one led by Jews and another by Poles. Lanzmann tries to speak to a woman who doesn’t want to answer his questions. Other men in the group of onlookers respond to Lanzmann, saying that everyone in Wlodawa knows what happened, but what they lived through was very different than the French experience, 'like night and day,' and so they cannot discuss it with Lanzmann because he cannot understand. Lanzmann presses the men to speak further, saying that this is precisely why he (Lanzmann) is here in Wlodawa asking these questions, trying to understand. They tell Lanzmann to visit Majdanek, where there is a memorial and all of the proof of what happened, but will not speak to him further, not even when Lanzmann replies that he has already visited.

01:16:46 SOB 47 Lanzmann interviews an elderly woman and one of the men (identified in the transcript as Mr. Filipowicz) who spoke earlier. He asks her why she had thanked him for still being interested in this history. She replies that the war was a very difficult time, where one could not even go to church, and that thankfully life has returned to its normal rhythm. Lanzmann asks her to elaborate about not being able to go to church, and she replies that one could, but that Germans would often station themselves outside of the church at the end of mass, and would conduct raids there. Lanzmann asks her whether Nazis ever shut Jews in the church, and she says no. She continues that she lives in a small village 30 km from Wlodawa, where there were not many Jews. The Jews in her village dressed differently than Poles before the war, and you could recognize them from the rest of the population, but then they began to dress like everyone else, except for the yellow star. Lanzmann asks the woman and man what they think of the Jewish religion. They say they are not very interested in it. The woman continues, however, explaining that Judaism is the oldest religion and that 'our' ten commandments come from Judaism. Lanzmann asks what they think of Jewish religious dress-- their clothes, their beards, etc. (sounds of a church service in the background). Mr. Filipowicz responds that it is not so different from Christian friars who wear religious dress. They discuss Jewish religious dress further, and then Lanzmann asks whether they found the Jews "harmless people or worrisome people." The man replies that they were fairly harmless, and that the only reproach against the Jews was that they engaged in commerce, meaning that they made a lot of money and did not work as hard as the Polish people farming the land. Lanzmann asks whether Polish people now hold those jobs in commerce, and the man replies that they do not, that the Polish government does it. The man discusses Jewish commerce before the war, saying that many Poles preferred to shop in Jewish stores because if they did not have enough money, the Jewish store owners would give them credit and let them pay later. Lanzmann asks whether the Polish state is as good at commerce as the Jews were, and the woman laughs and replies that she is content with it. Lanzmann asks whether the interviewees considered the Jews to be members of the Polish population, or whether they saw them as outsiders. The man replies that they were commonly seen as "full members of the collective Polish society," and that they did Polish military service and worked among and alongside the Polish people. Lanzmann then asks them to show him the part of the town that had been the Jewish ghetto. 01:26:18 Lanzmann walks arm-in-arm with Mr. Filipowicz, children follow as they walk down the street, sounds of the church service. 01:27:04 Picture cuts out. 01:28:20 “Coupe”

FILM ID 4688 -- SOB 50.51 Wlodowa Filipowicz
SOB 50 Inside traveling car, muffled conversation-- Lanzmann, his translator Barbara, and a few Wlodawa residents drive to the area of town where the Jewish ghetto was once located. Mr. Filipowicz explains that the first ghetto was created in 1940, and that a second, closed ghetto was created in 1942. Most of the buildings that were there at the time have been destroyed and rebuilt. Lanzmann asks to see houses where Jews live which still stand. They walk to a street where he points out the houses in which Jews once lived. He knows every house which was owned by Jews, though he cannot remember their names. He points out one of the houses, and recollects watching Germans throw three Jews, including an elderly woman, from the second-story balcony. He points out the home of a man named Yenkel, who was killed in Sobibor, as well as the old locations of different Jewish businesses. They walk through streets where Filipowicz says that before the war, every home was Jewish. Lanzmann asks him several times how he knows so much, and how he remembers the old residents of every single home and building in what was one the Jewish ghetto, but he never truly answers. 01:11:22 SOB 51 Lanzmann and Barbara continue to drive around the old Jewish ghetto of Wlodawa as the local resident, Mr. Filipowicz, points out the locations of what were once Jewish homes and businesses. He shows them the old synagogue, and tells a story of when, as kids, he and friends once caught a bird and set it free in the window of the synagogue during a service, 'just as a joke.' The streets still have the same names they had when Jews lived there. As they continue driving, Lanzmann remarks that the entire town center was Jewish homes and businesses, and the man agrees. He explains that most Poles lived further from the center of town. They drive to the old Jewish cemetery, which is now a park. 01:22:14 End

FILM ID 4689 -- White 87 SOB 61-64 Gare Voies (Vu+CL)
Snowy shots of the train station and railway tracks. 01:14:43 End

FILM ID 4690 -- White 88 Sobibor Foret Gare, Chutes
SOB 75 Snowy shots of Sobibor forest and railway tracks. SOB 71 01:14:44 End

FILM ID 4691 -- Sobibor Bte 88 Foret Gare
More mute shots of the snowy forest. 01:07:57 End

FILM ID 4692 -- Sobibor Foret
Assembled mute high-angle shots of the lush forest at Sobibor, the train station, and railway tracks. 01:03:19 End

Event:  1978 September
Production:  1985
Sobibor, Poland
Wlodowa, Poland
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 22:02:47
This page: