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Post-Holocaust Testimony

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Shoah Outtake with Abraham Bomba

Bomba, Abraham interview 1979
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
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tags: deportations killing centers Sonderkommando

type: Interview

Throughout Claude Lanzmann's documentary film about the Holoaust, titled Shoah, the director uses several individual voices to reflect the larger work. Abraham Bomba, who worked as barber in Treblinka, serves as one of those voices.

Originally from Częstochowa in Poland, Bomba was selected for the Sonderkommando detail at the Treblinka death camp,1 specifically for the job of cutting women's hair moments before their death. Prisoners chosen for Sonderkommando work were among the few who were not killed almost immediately upon arrival at killing centers like Treblinka.

Bomba's testimony—given from his home in Israel—forms a central building block of the film, together with Chełmno survivor Simon Srebnik. As one of these Treblinka barbers, Bomba knew crucial details that Lanzmann wanted to uncover. What did the gas chamber look like? What was the killing process at Treblinka? How much communication was possible between Bomba and the people whose hair he cut?

Lanzmann conducted several interviews with Bomba near his home in Holon, Israel, as well as in an Israeli barbershop. In the barbershop interview, Bomba tells the story of his experience while appearing to cut a customer's hair. The scene is staged, however. Lanzmann rented the Tel Aviv barbershop for the day, and Bomba was long retired. Even the supposed "customer" is selected. He was a friend from Bomba's hometown. In this nearly 30-minute interview, Bomba meticulously outlines the process of killing at Treblinka. At the center of the interview, Bomba's narrative breaks down. It is this moment that Lanzmann has called the center of his film, and claims Bomba as the hero of Shoah.

In the clip presented here, Bomba discusses the killing process at Treblinka as well as the disposal of bodies. It is taken from a larger outtake interview.2

German authorities drafted Jews into Sonderkommando units at the killing centers, where these select Jews were assigned to assist with the process of killing: sorting through the luggage left behind by the victims, cutting their hair before the gassing, leading them to the gas chambers, pulling the bodies from the chamber after the gassing, and eventually burning the bodies of the victims. Because they were in on the secret of the genocide, Sonderkommando Jews were routinely executed after a while, and replaced by incoming Jews. Very few Jews from these units survived the Holocaust.

Abraham Bomba also gave an interview to the USC Shoah Visual History Foundation in 1996.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
RG Number 60.5011
Date of Interview
September 1979
Duration 00:05:43
Abraham Bomba
Claude Lanzmann
Holon, Israel
Reference Location
Treblinka, Poland
Interview Type Interview
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