Irena had a secret
During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.
Irena was a Polish Catholic social worker. During World War II, she was a member of the Polish Underground and the Żegota resistance organization in Warsaw.
Irena was German and learned of the Nazi’s plans to exterminate the Jews. “When I learned what was going on, I just decided to act,” Irena said from her nursing home just prior to her death.
Irena smuggled small infants out in the bottom of her tool box and larger children in the back of her truck in a burlap sack.
To cover the noises the children would make (and to dissuade others from looking too closely) she had a dog in the back of the truck that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog, and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.
She managed to smuggle out and save 2,500 children. She provided false documents and sheltered them in individual or group children’s homes outside the ghetto.
Eventually she was caught. The Nazi’s beat her severely, broking both her legs and arms.
Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard.
After the war she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and reunited the family.
Most parents, of course, had been slaughtered in the Nazi gas chambers.
The children she helped were placed into foster homes or adopted.
Her story was brought to light when students from Kansas found her story in a magazine and popularized it in a play, titled "Life in a Jar."
Awards and Recognition
- In 1965, Irena was recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, which was confirmed in 1983 by the Israeli Supreme Court.
- She also was awarded the Commanders Cross by the Israeli Institute. It was only that year that the Polish communist government allowed her to travel abroad, to receive the award in Israel.
- In 2003, pope John Paul II sent a personal letter to Sendler, praising her wartime efforts.
- On 10 October 2003, Sendler received the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest civilian decoration and the Jan Karski Award "For Courage and Heart," given by the American Center of Polish Culture in Washington, D.C..
- On 14 March 2007 Sendler was honored by Poland’s Senate. At age 97, she was unable to leave her nursing home to receive the honor, but she sent a statement through Elżbieta Ficowska, whom Sendler had saved as an infant.
- Polish President Lech Kaczyński stated that she "can justly be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize".
In 2007, considerable publicity accompanied Sendler’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. While failed nominees for the award are not officially announced by the Nobel organization for 50 years, the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo reported in 2007 that Irena Sendler’s nominator made public the nomination. Talk of this nomination focused the spotlight on Sendler and her wartime contribution.
The 2007 award was presented to Al Gore, for his controversial movie about a slide-show on Global Warming.
What will you do?
When you learn of someone – or some government – doing what you know not to be right, will you be as brave as this frail woman? When you learn what was going on, will you decided to act?