Based on the recorded memories, diary and love letters of Saartje Wijnberg (Selma Wijnberg Engel) and Chaim Engel, Dancing Through Darkness is a true story that exists only because of the strength of love and the power of dreams. From Poland and Holland, and with no common language, Saartje and Chaim met and fell in love when forced to dance together for the entertainment of the Nazi SS guards at Sobibor Death Camp in Poland in April, 1943. As their love grew, in defiance of the brutality that surrounded them, they promised each other they would survive. Their dream of living to share a normal life was simple, but it gave them the strength and the courage to survive the unspeakable atrocities of Sobibor, one of Hitler’s most efficient Death Camps.
On October 14, 1943, the largest escape from over 300 concentration camps took place at Sobibor. Chaim Engel’s involvement included killing an SS guard and holding Saartje’s hand as they ran from the camp and kept running and hiding for ten days in a hostile country. A Polish farmer and his wife, Adam and Stefka Nowak, agreed to hide them in the hayloft over their cows for the money Chaim had risked his life to smuggle from the camp. Life in the camp, the escape, nine months of unspeakable deprivation in hiding and the birth, and the death of their son are written in Saartje’s diary and reflected in Dancing Through Darkness.
Saartje and Chaim never knew why they survived and others who tried just as hard did not, but they vowed to speak for the 250,000 who died at Sobibor and could no longer speak for themselves. As they lived the American dream with a successful business and an active family, they made their story a priority. Refusing any compensation, they spoke to schools, businesses, civic groups, churches, synagogues, at the war trials in Haagen, Germany–anywhere a group would listen to their story of the horrors created by prejudice and hatred when good people remain silent.
Their voices were temporarily silenced when Chaim died on July 4, 2003. Now over 90, Saartje is no longer able to travel and speak as much as she would like, but by sharing her memories, her diary and their love letters in Dancing Through Darkness, she continues to honor Chaim and their love of 60 years. She also speaks for those whose voices were silenced forever.