Savior of Jewish Children Honoured
The Polish parliament recognized a national hero this month when it honored 97 year old Irena Sendlerowa. The former social worker rescued over 2,500 Jewish children and babies from what would have been inevitable death in the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, or the death camps in the rest of Poland. During a special session, the upper house of parliament unanimously approved a resolution making Ms. Sendlerowa a national hero for organizing the "rescue of the most defenseless victims of the Nazi ideology: the Jewish children," while Polish President Lech Kaczynski called her a "great hero who can be justly named for the Nobel Peace Prize." To this Ms. Sendlerowa has replied "I'm no hero," though history will (rightfully) judge her otherwise.
During World War II, Ms. Sendlerowa was a member of a larger secret organization called Zegota, set up by the Polish government in exile in London to help rescue Polish Jews. Her position as a young social worker allowed her access into the Jewish ghetto, and thus she set up a small team of fellow social workers to smuggle the children to safety. While the conditions in the ghetto were terrible since it was set up in November 1940, deportations to the death camps didn't start until 1942.
When Ms. Sendlerowa realized what was happening, she organized a team to rescue the ghetto's children. While some babies and smaller children were smuggled out in workmen's toolbags or in suitcases or boxes, some were taken in ambulances and others were left in secret passageways or sewers for those helping her to rescue. She would write the names of the children she smuggled out on cigarette papers and bury them in glass jars in a friend's garden, which were later dug up in an effort to reunite children with their families, though most had unfortunately perished at the hands of the Nazis.
In all, at least 2,500 children and babies were smuggled to safety. The children she saved in 1942 and 1943 were then given false documents with new identities and placed with Polish families or in Catholic convents.
In 1943, Ms. Sendlerowa was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo, her legs and feet broken, and was sentenced to death. She refused to reveal her role in saving the ghetto's children, and only survived after fellow members of Zegota bribed the German guards on the way to her execution. In German-occupied Poland, the punishment for hiding or smuggling Jews was death, the harshest in the occupied territories.
Today, Ms. Sendlerowa lives a quiet life in a Warsaw nursing home, and her deeds are reletively unknown, compared to more publicized heroes like Oskar Schindler. She has already been honoured for her role in the past, however, receiving the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest civilian decoration in 1983, and also the Commander's Cross from the Israeli Institute. A marble plaque dedicated to the Zegota organization was also unveiled near the former Warsaw Ghetto in 1995.
When asked about her role in the Second World War, in an interview Ms. Sendlerowa has said: "The term 'hero' irritates me greatly. The opposite is true. I continue to have pangs of conscience that I did so little." But many of the children who were rescued are now adults and continue to view her as a savior. Subsequently, the Polish and Jewish nations accept her as a hero, and her nomination for this year's Nobel peace prize will at least bring to light the heroic acts of this brave woman.
christian2015 from United States Reply
I did a research paper on Irena Sendler it is so sad!!:(This was a good source
Frog from United States Reply
This is sad!!!
Hannah from United States Reply
I can't believe some peoples strength to do what is right even when it endangers your own life
Hannah from United States Reply
I think that more people who helped Jews during WW2 should be reconized for risking their lives and freedom to help others in times of need
Allison from United States Reply
This women lost the noble peace prize to al gore... sad.
from United States Reply
aaron from United States Reply
Yet again, as i searched this site more, I have the info to get an 'A' in my history project. This was a touching story indeed.