I never tire of stories of survival of any kind. I like to learn the values, beliefs, and actions that supported survivors to come out of a crisis situation where it seemed the “odds” were against them.
Many years ago I attended a lecture by Philip Bialowitz, and it proved to be one of those inspiring stories. He was part of the biggest escape from a Nazi death camp in Sobibor, along with 200 others. He told the gruesome details of his family being killed and of working at the camp where an estimated 250,000 people were killed with gas. While the story is dark, his outcome is filled with light and love.
You can still take inspired action seconds before a deadline and win.
Philip was standing up with a group of other Jews, preparing for death, as the firing squad began shooting. He fell to the ground as if he were shot. It worked. He waited until the firing squad vacated the premises and escaped to a short-lived freedom.
Focus on the good.
Even though death was a certainty in Sobibor, Philip and his fellow prisoners prayed that the camp would be bombed. Even though they would die in the bombing, they would be grateful that the gas chambers would be destroyed and no more killings would happen there. This shows how you can focus on the good in ANY situation.
Pray for and know that miracles exist.
Six hundred slaves/prisoners worked at the camp processing and preparing all the other Jews for their surprise deaths. Philip knew he would never leave alive and yet he still focused on a miracle happening. He said what got him through every day was hope. His hope paid off.
Masterminds give you what you need to complete the goal.
There was one person spearheading a plan of escape with a few other prisoners. They needed military intelligence to complete the plan. Who showed up at the camp soon after that awareness? Prisoners delivered to the camp straight from the military. They formed a mastermind and created a plan for escape. With the combined knowledge and skills of the mastermind, many of the escapees not only lived to tell their stories but also manifested the camp being shut down immediately! Within three days, trees were planted. Now that’s VICTORY!
Commitment to a bigger vision will drive inspired and meaningful actions.
The two mastermind leaders asked that if anyone made it out alive, that they would tell the world about Sobibor. Many made it out alive, but their escape was not the end of the tale. With the war still in full force, the escapees had to hide and find ways to survive. Philip went into hiding for over a year!
While over forty people made it out of the war alive after escaping the death camp, including Philip’s older brother, many were not able to speak about what happened. Philip’s commitment to tell the world about Sobibor fueled his will to survive. He is not a “professional” public speaker, yet, while in his eighties, he traveled the world to educate about putting a stop to racism.
You can survive mayhem and THRIVE.
Philip moved forward in life after the war. He found love and a new career. He said he still had nightmares, yet he had lived a very fulfilling life. At the time of the lecture, he lived in New York with his family and brother. He was a gracious man who filled the room with light. He didn’t let his tragedy paralyze him. It actually fueled him to live more fully until he passed in 2016.
Where in your life can you implement the lessons from Sobibor?