14 December 2012

Irena Sendler

I came across a post today on FaceBook about Irena Sendler and did a little searching to verify that it was a trues story and since it is and since I was moved when I read it, I thought I would share some information about this extraordinary woman.

First off the post read: (I did take out the breaks and put in paragraph form to save some space)

Look at this lady - Let us never forget!
The world hasn't just become wicked...it's always been wicked.
The prize doesn't always go to the most deserving.

Irena Sendler
Died 12 May 2008 (aged 98)
Warsaw, Poland

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a plumbing/sewer specialist.
She had an 'ulterior motive'. She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews (being German).
Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids). She also had a dog in the back 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.  
During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely.  Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family.   Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.  She was not selected
Can you imagine what strength of will it took this woman to do this? Often we read stoies like this and simply say "wow" and move on with our life because we simply cannot grasp the magnitude of the situation. We cannot grasp what exactly our ancestors lived through (no she is no know relation although I do have people from Poland).
According to her obituary in the NY Times, she was the head of the children’s bureau of Zegota. Her job as a social worker allowed her access to the children and allowed her to smuggle children out of the Warsaw Ghetto after Poland fell to the Nazis in 1939. The Nazi's finally came to her and took her to Pawiak prison where she was tortured for not giving up the names of the people helping her. She managed to escape moments before her execution was scheduled to be held after her friends has bribed a guard. Even after that, Irena continued her work.
PHOTOS are from http://www.auschwitz.dk/sendler.htm a great reference site for anyone (my middle school child just did a report using this site) studying this time period.
Other suggested sites:
Irena Sendler In the Name of Their Mothers (PBS) @ http://www.pbs.org/programs/irena-sendler/
Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project @ http://www.irenasendler.com/
The New York Times - when she passed in 2008 @ http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/world/europe/13sendler.html?_r=0
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.