Editor's note: This corrects the e-mail address for Joanna Clay.
Philip Bialowitz made a promise before he escaped the Sobibór death camp in Poland: If he got out, he would share his story with the world.
On Sunday, visitors to the Chabad Jewish Center in Newport Beach will be able to hear the 85-year-old's story, which includes the most successful extermination camp uprising against the Nazis in the history of World War II.
Rabbi Reuven Mintz had heard of Bialowitz because of Bialowitz's book, "A Promise at Sobibór: A Jewish Boy's Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland."
"I think it's imperative for as many people to hear the first-hand story of a witness that experienced the horrors of the Sobibór death camp," said Mintz, director of Chabad Jewish Center.
In April 1943, at 17 years old, Bialowitz and his siblings were taken to Sobibór, the only concentration camp in Poland used solely for extermination.
The camp was infamous, Bialowitz said, for killing at least 250,000 people.
His niece and sisters were killed, but he and his brother, now 99, were kept alive because his brother was a pharmacist and was needed by the SS. His brother told the SS he was his assistant.
After six months, Bialowitz and a small group began to plan a revolt against the guards.
"We had nothing to lose," he said. "We hoped someone would escape from Sobibór and tell people what happened."
The coup, now famous for its 1943 successful concentration camp uprising, freed 200 of the 600 prisoners. They killed 11 Gestapo and ran through a mine field, many dying during the escape.
Bialowitz and his brother made it out alive.
"My mission is to go around all over the world to speak about my experiences," Bialowitz said. "To talk about the fighting spirit of the Jewish people, how we fought back and how we should build a better world. A world without genocide … a world without anti-Semitism."
After the war, Bialowitz moved to the United States and settled in New York, working as a jeweler. Eva Yelloz, a family friend, recounted how her mother met Bialowitz at his jewelry store. A Polish Jew and survivor herself, they became fast friends.
"They became very close because they shared the Polish language," Yelloz said. "There were so few Polish survivors because (the Nazis) went into Poland first."
Mintz thinks Bialowitz story is especially important for young people, who learn most of their history through books and television.
"I insist that they bring along the young people because they are the future and they have a mission to pass on the story to their children and grandchildren," he said.
For more information about Sunday's event, visit Chabad's website at JewishNewport.com. To find out more about Bialowitz, visit his website at http://www.sobiborholocaustsurvivor.org.
If You Go
If You Go
What: An evening with Holocaust survivor Philip Bialowitz
Where: Chabad Jewish Center at 2865 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar
When: 7 p.m. SundayCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun