In the spring of 1942, German SS and police authorities constructed the Sobibor killing center in a swampy and thinly populated region near the present-day eastern border of Poland. At its largest, the camp covered an area of 1,312 by 1,969 feet. Trees planted around the perimeter camouflaged the site and the entire camp was surrounded by a minefield 50 feet wide. The authorities at Sobibor consisted of a small staff of German SS and police officials and an auxiliary guard unit of between 90 and 120 men, either former Soviet prisoners of war or Ukrainian and Polish civilians.
Camp authorities began regular gassing operations in May 1942. Trains of 40 to 60 freight cars arrived at the Sobibor railway station. Twenty cars at a time entered a reception area in the camp, where guards ordered the Jewish passengers onto a platform and to hand over all valuables. The Germans ordered the Jews into barracks, forced them to undress, and run through the "tube," a narrow enclosed path which led directly into gas chambers deceptively labeled as showers. Once the gas chamber doors were sealed, guards in an adjacent room started an engine which piped carbon monoxide into the gas chambers, killing all those inside.
Groups of prisoners selected to remain alive as forced laborers removed bodies from the gas chambers and buried the victims in mass graves. Camp personnel periodically murdered these prisoners and replaced them with new arrivals. In the autumn of 1942, Sobibor officials, using Jewish forced laborers, began to exhume the mass graves and burn bodies on open-air “ovens” made from rail track. The Germans also utilized a machine to crush bone fragments into powder. These efforts aimed at obliterating all traces of mass murder.
On October 14, 1943, with approximately 600 prisoners left in the camp, prisoners staged an uprising and succeeded in killing nearly a dozen camp personnel. Around 300 prisoners managed to escape; around 100 of them were later caught. After the revolt, the Germans dismantled the killing center and shot most of the remaining prisoners. In all, the Germans and their auxiliaries murdered at least 167,000 people at Sobibor.