Based on debris collected and patterns in the soil, he has been able to figure out where the Nazis placed poles to hold up the camp's barbed wire fences.
That led him to his major breakthrough — the mapping of what the Germans called the Himmelfahrsstrasse, or the "Road to Heaven," a path upon which the inmates were marched naked into the gas chambers. He determined its route by the poles that marked the path. From that, he determined where the gas chambers would have been located.
Along the way, he and his Polish partner Wojciech Mazurek, along with some 20 laborers, have stumbled on thousands of personal items belonging to the victims: eye glasses, perfume bottles, dentures, rings, watches, a child's Mickey Mouse pin, a diamond-studded gold chain, a pair of gold earrings inscribed ER — apparently the owner's initials — a silver medallion engraved with the name "Hanna."
Marek Bem, a former director of the museum at Sobibor, said the first excavations began at the site in 2001, with several stages before he invited Haimi to join in 2007. He said the mapping of the 200-yard long Himmelfahrsstrasse opens the door for looking for the actual gas chambers.
"We are nearer the truth," he said. "It tells us where to look for the gas chambers."
Haimi is not allowed to take any of the items out of Poland, but he consults regularly with Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research, which helps him interpret his findings and gives them historical perspective.
Dan Michman, head of the institute, said Haimi's research helps shed light on the "technical aspects" of the Holocaust. It also grants insight, for example, on what people chose to take with them in their final moments.
"His details are exact and that is an important tool against Holocaust denial. It's not memories, it's based on facts. It's hard evidence," he said.
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