Israel buries last survivor of Treblinka death camp

The coffin of Samuel Willenberg is lowered into his grave in Moshav Udim, Israel on Monday (Feb 22).
The coffin of Samuel Willenberg is lowered into his grave in Moshav Udim, Israel on Monday (Feb 22).PHOTO: EPA

OUDIM, Israel (AFP) - Hundreds of people attended Monday's funeral in Israel of Samuel Willenberg, the last survivor of the World War II Nazi Treblinka death camp, who has died aged 93.

Willenberg was buried in the cemetery of the farming village of Oudim in central Israel, with hundreds of mourners including President Reuven Rivlin in attendance.

"I stand here as president of the state of Israel, beside the grave of the last witness of Treblinka, and before me are - together with you - 850,000 Jews," Rivlin said.

"Only 67 people survived Treblinka. You were among them, the last witness," the president said.

"Every month, a thousand survivors (of the Holocaust) pass away. The number of first-hand witnesses is dwindling," Rivlin said.

He urged that Holocaust survivors in Israel, of whom a quarter live below the poverty line, be allowed to live in dignity.

 

Born in Poland, Willenberg was 19 and living in the town of Opatow when its Jewish inhabitants were sent to Treblinka.

He was one of the instigators of an Aug 2, 1943, revolt at the camp when he joined another 200 inmates who broke into an SS armoury, opened fire on their captors and torched camp buildings.

Shot in the foot, Willenberg nevertheless escaped and joined the Polish underground.

In 1944, he fought in the Warsaw Uprising by Polish partisans against the Nazis, surviving yet again to serve in the post-war Polish army and immigrating to Israel in 1950.

He became a noted sculptor, creating 15 scenes from Treblinka which have been exhibited in Israel, Poland and Germany.

According to the Yad Vashem Holocaust institute, approximately 870,000 Jews were murdered during the 13 months the Treblinka camp was in operation, from July 1942 to August 1943.