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Film: Escape from Sobibor

Escape from Sobibor is a 1987 prison escape/war/Holocaust movie set in 1943, in the Sobibor extermination camp, where inmates who have been selectively spared for their skills in manufacturing material goods plot their escape from the camp, in part utilizing the skills they possess.

Stars Alan Arkin and Rutger Hauer.


This film provides examples of:

  • Awful Truth: Moses discovers this about the camp when he sees the gas chambers for the first time.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Out of the 600 prisoners they intended to help escape, only 300 survived
    • And those were the ones that survived the initial escape. Only between 50 and 70 were confirmed to have survived the war, the vast majority dying in the weeks following the escape. The first by running into minefields, then later on by being caught by the Germans or handed over to them by Polish collaborators - if not outright killed by the latter. Others, such as Luka and Moses, simply vanished and were never heard from again.
  • Blatant Lies: The Nazis tell all new arrivals that they're being sent to the "showers" for decontamination.
  • Concentration Camp: The primary, very unfriendly setting.
  • Conveniently Timed Guard: One of the guards goes into a senior officers office and discovers him by spotting blood and following its trail, marking the turning point of the escape when they had previously gotten along without widespread discovery
  • Defiant to the End: Naomi spits at Wagner's offer to spare her while killing her baby, both figuratively and literally. She then holds her baby and smiles defiantly as he shoots her
  • Faux Affably Evil: Sgt Wagner. Also Captain Reichleitner.
  • Gas Chamber
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Used whenever a character is murdered. One exception is when the Nazis execute 26 prisoners for trying to escape, and tell the others that anyone who averts his/her eyes would be executed too. The scene is shot from a long range, though.
  • Great Escape
  • Karma Houdini: Largely averted by the camp guards, who were prosecuted at various points after the war, or simply killed later during the war.
    • Sgt. Wagner, on the other hand, was found in hiding in Brazil. The Brazilian government refused to extradite him, but he was eventually found dead with a knife embedded in his chest. The local courts just decide to rule it a suicide.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Deconstructed with the Kapos. Kapo Berliner provides the most straight example.
  • Oh, Crap: The Nazi guards' reactions to the uprising.
    • Also the leaders of the revolt when SS reinforcements unexpectedly arrive at the camp on the planned day of the escape. They are forced to postpone the escape until the next day.
  • Reds with Rockets: They show up fairly late in the film, as POWs.
  • Rousing Speech: Leon and Sasha give one to the prisoners, just before they break out.
  • Sadistic Choice: After a group of prisoners is caught trying to escape, Sergeant Wagner not only has them publicly executed, but he forces each of them to choose a "partner" from the audience to die with them. He threatens to have fifty random prisoners executed if they don't obey.
  • Suddenly Shouting: "There will be no more escape attempts in this camp. I'll repeat that: THERE WILL BE NO MORE ESCAPE ATTEMPTS IN THIS CAMP!"
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The main antagonists. (Though "wacky" may not exactly be the right word here...)
  • Truth in Television: Indeed.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue
  • Would Hurt a Child: Sgt Wagner outright shoots an infant!
  • You Killed My Father: Inverted: One of the inmates quietly states "My family.." before hitting an elderly guard in the head with an axe. Subverted with the Szmajzner brothers, who are motivated in their escape by anger at the Nazis for their families deaths, but don't state this before taking down the guards.