Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Sobibor Death Camp
Sasha Pechersky wrote in his diary about his relationship with a girl called “Luka,” whom he met in the women’s barracks after the day’s work was done, as a cover for his meetings with Leon Feldhendler, and the other underground members in the Sobibor death camp, as they planned the revolt in October 1943.
Luka often described as an 18 year old woman from Holland, but she was indeed a German, her real name was Gertrude Poppert – Schonborn and she was born on the 29 June 1914 in Dortmund, Germany, so when Pechesky met Luka she was 28 years old.
She fled to the Netherlands in the 1930’s with her husband and they lived at Utrechtschedwarsstraat 113 I Amsterdam.
She was sent to the transit camp at Westerbork in the Netherlands on the 28 November 1942 and from there was deported to Sobibor with her husband on the 18 May 1943.
Sasha Pechersky described in his diary, one of the conversations he had with “Luka:”
“Do you know where I work?
In the yard where the rabbits are
It is fenced off with a wooden fence. Through the cracks you can see the naked men, women and children, as they are led to Camp lll. I look and shake as if in a fever, but I cannot turn my eyes from the sight.
At times some call out, “Where are they taking us?”
As though they knew that someone was listening and could answer their questions. I tremble and remain silent. Cry out? Tell them they are being led to their death? Will it be any help to them? On the contrary, like this, at least, they go without crying, without screaming, without humiliating themselves before their murderers.
But it is so horrible, Sasha, so horrible!”
Gertrude was deported to Sobibor death camp with her husband Walter Michael Poppert who was born on the 26 March 1914 also in Dortmund and whose profession was a Clothing Contracting dealer.
At Sobibor he worked in the Waldkommando and was murdered by the Nazis in Sobibor on the 31 October 1943.
As for Luka just before the escape from the death camp she gave Pechersky a shirt for good luck, which he wore, and is now in a museum.
Excerpts from an interview with Alexander Aronowicz Pechersky
(Questions from Toivi Blatt)
Toivi: I had seen you a few times in Sobibor casually talking with Luka, the Dutch girl. In your diaries you mention her quite often. She left a lasting impression on you.
In the beginning the communication was difficult, because the language problem.
Soon we were able to understand each other without help. I informed her minutes before the escape of the plan. She has given me a shirt. She said, "it's a good luck shirt, put it on right now", and I did. It's now in the museum. I lost her in the turmoil of the revolt and never saw her again.
Luka perished either in the break-out from the camp or in the forest, her fate has never been factually established, Pechersky tried to find her in the forest without success.
*Although no record exists regarding the fate of Gertrude Poppert-Schonborn "Luka", we have chosen to honour the memory of a woman who proved to be such an inspiration on the leaders of the Sobibor revolt.
Vernichtungslager Sobibor by Jules Schelvis, published by Unrast –verlag Hamburg 2003
Sobibor The Forgotten Revolt by Thomas Blatt, published by H.E.P 1998
The Digital Monument to the Jewish Community in the Netherlands
Jules Schelvis for his excellent research which uncovered Luka’s true identity.
Martin van Liempt
Guido Abuys – Kampwesterbork
Copyright Chris Webb H.E.A.R.T 2008