Dunham Books Announces the Release of Dancing Through Darkness by Ann Markham Walsh

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In the book, Dancing Through Darkness: When Love and Dreams Survived a Nazi Death Camp, author Ann Markham Walsh retells the true story, a harrowing yet heart-warming tale, of Saartje Wijnberg and Chaim Engel-- who fell in love with one another and together escaped a Holocaust death camp.

Based on the recorded memories, diary and love letters of Saartje (Selma Wijnberg Engel) and Chaim, Dancing Through Darkness is a true story that exists only because of the redemptive quality of love and the transformative power of dreams. From Poland and Holland, respectively, Saartje and Chaim met and fell in love almost the instant their eyes met when they were forced to dance together for the entertainment of the Nazi SS guards at Sobibor Death Camp in Poland in April, 1943. Even without a common language between them, and amidst the "drifting ash and smells from the fires, [and] in spite of the hunger and the fear" their love persisted, day after day. In triumphant defiance of the brutality that surrounded them, they promised each other that they would face the horror together and that they would survive. Saartje and Chaim's dream of living to share a normal life was simple, but it gave them the hope and courage to persevere through the unspeakable atrocities of Sobibor, one of Hitler’s most efficient Death Camps.

On October 14, 1943, the prisoners at Sobibor orchestrated the largest escape ever from any of the over- 300 concentration camps. Chaim's involvement included stabbing an SS guard to death and holding Saartje’s hand as they ran from the camp "waiting for the machine guns from the watchtowers to cut [them] down." Hand-in-hand, much like their first dance together, Saartje and Chaim kept running for their lives and hiding for ten days in a hostile country. A Polish farmer and his wife, Adam and Stefka Nowak, agreed to conceal the young couple in the hayloft over their cows for the money Chaim had risked his life to smuggle from the camp.

The epic tale of life in Sobibor, the escape, the ensuing 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, they told of the horrors that are created by prejudice and hatred when good people remain silent.

Dancing Through Darkness breaks the silence and speaks for millions whose voices were forever silenced years ago. Though Chaim died on July 4, 2003, at 91, Saartje still travels and speaks as much as she is able, sharing her memories, her diary and their love letters. With Dancing Through Darkness, she continues to honor Chaim and their love of 60 years. Their story and their life affirm that love does, indeed, conquer all.

About Ann Markham Walsh
Ann Markham Walsh is a former teacher and business owner whose love of writing life-affirming works has produced two plays, numerous essays and short stories, and three books. Ann graduated from Vanderbilt University and attended The University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She was a Master Trainer for Learning International; and as an employee of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, created training for her staff. To balance family and career, Ann established Walsh and Associates, which grew into an international training company, AMW International, specializing in customized training for major corporate clients. Ms. Walsh lives in the Nashville area.

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