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75th Anniversary of an Uprising: Reflecting on my Grandparent's Escape from Sobibor

75th Anniversary of an Uprising: Reflecting on my Grandparent's Escape from Sobibor

 Selma (Saartje) Wijnberg Engel and Chaim Engel the grandparents of host Tagan Engel, with their baby Emilje (Angel) who died at sea shortly after this photo was taken. Photo from early 1944 in the year after their escape from the Nazi death camp Sobibor.

Selma (Saartje) Wijnberg Engel and Chaim Engel the grandparents of host Tagan Engel, with their baby Emilje (Angel) who died at sea shortly after this photo was taken. Photo from early 1944 in the year after their escape from the Nazi death camp Sobibor.

Today’s show falls on the heels of the 75th anniversary of the most successful revolt from a Nazi death camp, the escape from Sobibor, which took place on October 14th, 1943. For me, this story is intensely personal, as my grandparents, Selma Wijnberg Engel and Chaim Engel were part of this uprising and survived the escape. I detail some of that story in writing here. This history has had a profound impact on my life and has fueled the way I view the world, interact with people and fight for social justice and liberation for all people.

Last week I was invited by the Polish Government to represent my family at a ceremony at the Sobibor site. In light of the recent passage of a law in Poland making it illegal to accuse the Polish nation of complicity in the Holocaust, it seemed particularly important to show up and let people know that we, the family of victims and survivors are paying attention. This was not my first trip to Poland, or to Sobibor, but it was powerful and gave me a lot to think about, especially in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, ongoing liberation work for black and brown peoples, and the fight to end the mass incarceration in the United States.

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This week also happens to be my 19th wedding anniversary to my husband Enroue Halfkenny, and I thought, who better to join me in conversation about this topic then him. Enroue is a healer, African Yoruba priest, and therapist through his practice Healing & Liberation Counseling. He has more than a decade of experience working with people on healing from intergenerational trauma and connecting with ancestral wisdom. As my partner in life he also knows both of my grandparents and the complexity of this story well, so I am grateful that he agreed to join me for this important conversation. You can view the in studio interview on facebook live here.

In this podcast I share the story of my grandparent’s escape, and also how living with that legacy has impacted me. We also discuss the ways that the Jewish Holocaust is remembered and some types of healing and reparations work that happens around this history both by governments as well as by individuals. This stands out in contrast to how little is done in this respect to remember and heal from the genocide done to African and Indigenous peoples in the United States. In sharing my own journey with this history, I also speak about my first trip to Poland in 1996 right after college, and the importance as a white Jewish person, of connecting with my ancestry, and healing my own internalized anti-semitism. This is not your typical conversation about the Holocaust, and I hope it is interesting and helpful for you.

A written post detailing my recent trip to Poland complete with photos of the memorials at Sobibor, as well as the white supremacist/fascist protest I witnessed while I was in Poland will be up on this site very soon.

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