Institute News

In memory of Selma Engel, one of the few to survive Sobibor

We are saddened to hear of the recent passing of Selma Engel, who, after becoming one of the few people to escape the Sobibor death camp in Poland during the Holocaust, immediately began telling the world what she saw.

Engel, who died Dec. 4 at age 96, was one of the last two living survivors of the camp, according to an obituary in The New York Times. Only about 50 people are thought to have survived the camp, which was liquidated after a famous uprising on Oct. 14, 1943, when Jewish prisoners killed 11 Nazi guards, creating a brief, chaotic window of opportunity for escape.

Engel gave her testimony to USC Shoah Foundation in 1995.

Born Saartje Wynberg in the Netherlands in 1922, she fled during the bedlam of the uprising with fellow Jewish prisoner Chaim Engel. They would later marry and have children.

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Selma Engel on the notorious commander at Sobibor

Language: English

Selma Engel describes how the insurrection at Sobibor was timed to coincide with the vacation of Gustav Franz Wagner, an infamously sadistic Nazi commander at the camp who reportedly had a strong intuition about inmate collusion.

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Selma Engel on the Sobibor uprising

Language: English

Selma Engel describes the chaos that erupted during the uprising at the Sobibor death camp, enabling her and her future husband, Chaim Engel, to escape.