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Selma Engel papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 1999.A.0201

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    Selma Engel papers

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    The Selma Engel papers consist of a diary, biographical materials, and photographs. The diary (1943-1944) was written by Selma while hiding on a farm in German occupied Poland. It describes Selma’s arrival at Sobibór, the uprising and her escape with Chaim, the farming couple hiding them (Adam and Stefka Nowak), conditions of the farm, and Chaim and Selma’s health issues and Selma’s pregnancy. The diary also includes handwritten dictionary pages translating German into Polish, messages to Selma from Chaim, and sketches of the Hotel Wijnberg in Zwolle. Biographical materials include repatriation cards for Selma and Chaim Engel under assumed names Selma and Herman Kriseck, a 1946 letter documenting the deaths of Chaim’s family members, and Chaim’s prisoner of war work card. Photographs depict Selma’s family members in the Netherlands and Selma and Chaim Engel with their baby in Odessa.
    inclusive:  circa 1926-1946
    Collection Creator
    Selma S. Engel
    Selma Engel (1922-2018) was born Saartje Wijnberg in Groningen, Netherlands, to Samuel Wijnberg and Alida (Nathan) Wijnberg. She moved with her parents and three older siblings, Abraham, Maurits and Marthyn, to Zwolle in 1929, where her parents ran a kosher hotel. The family initially remained in Zwolle following the German occupation, and Selma's father died of natural causes in 1941. Her brother Abraham married and moved to Utrecht, where his family survived the war in hiding. Alida, Marthyn, Maurits, and his wife Betje all perished at Auschwitz. Selma avoided deportation to Auschwitz by hiding, but her group was denounced, and Selma was arrested, imprisoned in Amsterdam, transferred to Vught and Westerbork and deported to Sobibór in April 1943. At Sobibór she met her future husband, Chaim Engel (1916-2003), who was born in Brudzew, Poland, and raised in Łódź. He was captured by the Germans while serving in the Polish Army and was sent to Germany for forced labor before being transferred to Sobibór. Selma and Chaim participated in the Sobibór revolt and escaped on October 14, 1943. They were hidden by Polish Christians Adam and Stefka Novak on a farm in Plisków until liberation by the Soviets, and Selma gave birth to a baby boy named Emiltje. They stayed briefly in Chełm before finding their way to Zwolle via Odessa, but their baby died en route. They moved to Israel in 1951 and immigrated to the United States in 1957.

    Physical Details

    Photographs. Diaries.
    3 folders
    System of Arrangement
    The Selma Engel papers are arranged as one series: I. Selma Engel papers, approximately 1926-1946

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Engel, Chaim, 1916-2003.

    Administrative Notes

    Selma Engel donated the Selma Engel papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1999 and 2007. The accession formerly cataloged as 2007.69 has been incorporated into this collection.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    The accessibility of this collection was made possible by the generous donors to our crowdfunded Save Their Stories campaign.
    Special Collection
    Save Their Stories
    Primary Number
    Record last modified:
    2024-04-11 13:19:05
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