Semion (Shlomo) Rozenfeld, who would take part in the uprising in the Nazi death camp of Sobibor, was born in 1922 in the small town of Ternovka in the Podolia Governorate (Province), present-day Ukraine, into the family of a tailor. As a child, he lived through the manmade famine that ravaged Ukraine in the early 1930s. Semion began to attend a Yiddish school, which was transformed into a Ukrainian one in 1936.
In 1940, Semion finished school, and was then drafted into the Red Army, where he began to serve in an artillery regiment stationed in Soviet-annexed Latvia. His regiment was then transferred to Minsk.
With the beginning of the Soviet-German War on June 22, 1941, Semion Rozenfeld was able to leave Minsk with his artillery regiment. However, in late July Rozenfeld was taken prisoner in the area between Mogilev and Smolensk. The SS put him in the Minsk concentration camp, where, for two years, he had to perform hard physical labor. In September 1943, Rozenfeld, together with other camp POWs and inmates of the Minsk ghetto, was sent to southeastern Poland, to the Sobibor extermination camp. He was saved from the gas chambers because of his being a physically strong young man, and because he claimed to be a carpenter. Consequently, he was assigned to carry out various kinds of work within the camp. On October 14, 1943, Semion took part in an uprising led by Aleksandr Pecherskii, who had been a fellow inmate at the Minsk POW camp. Apart from being successful – the Sobibor revolt led to the escape of about 300 prisoners – it was a remarkable example of Jewish resistance. However, many of the escapees were recaptured and killed by the Nazis, often with the assistance of local collaborators and local Polish antisemites. Rozenfeld himself survived. With a small group of people that included former inmates of Sobibor and Jews who had escaped German murder operations, he hid in the woods for eleven months. In late July 1944, the Red Army liberated the city of Chelm. Rozenfeld then asked the Soviet command to send him to the front lines. However, the Soviets doubted whether he had really survived two years of captivity. Still, after careful screening by the Soviet counterintelligence unit SMERSH, Semion Rozenfeld was sent to fight on the 1st Belorussian Front. He took part in the crossing of the Vistula River. During the battle for the city of Poznan in winter 1945, Semion was seriously wounded. He narrowly avoided having a limb amputated when a young Jewish medical intern advised him to decline the operation.
After being released from hospital, Rozenfeld, who was now deemed unfit for combat, was sent to Berlin as commander of a unit guarding army food supplies. There, he met the end of the war. He scratched the following inscription on a column of the Reichstag: "Baranovichi-Sobibor-Berlin". In 1945, Rozenfeld was awarded the medals For Combat Services and For Courage.
Semion's entire family, who had stayed behind in Ternovka, was shot by the Germans in late May 1942.
After the war, Semion and his wife settled in the town of Gaivoron in Kirovograd Region (Ukraine), where he worked as the head of a photo workshop. The Rozenfelds later moved to Odessa.
Although the Sobibor revolt was not sufficiently prominent in the USSR, in 1963 (its 20th anniversary) Semion met with Aleksandr Pecherskii and other survivors of the uprising. They continued to meet until 1990, when Pecherskii died and the Rozenfelds immigrated to Israel.
Semion Rozenfeld died in Rechovot in 2019.