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Wednesday’s Wise Woman … Irena Sendler

January 2, 2013

Irena  Sendler

Irena Sendler 

Irena Sendler born Krzyzanowska (1910- 2008) in Poland who was a social worker who served in the Polish Underground during World War II. She was responsible for the placement children in Zegota an underground resistance organisation in German occupied Warsaw. Sendler, with a team of twenty Zegota members smuggled 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto giving them a new identity and homes outside the ghetto and allowing them to escape the Holocaust.

During the German occupation of Poland, Sendler lived in Warsaw. In 1939 when the Germans invaded, she began aiding Jews even before joining Zegota.  With their support she was able to provide the false documents. However it was very dangerous situation, those found hiding Jews risked death.
Sendler was a valued member of the team as she was an employee of the Social Welfare Department with a special permit to enter the Warsaw Ghetto to check of signs of typhus.  The Nazis were afraid that it might spread beyond the ghetto.
As a sign of solidarity with the Jewish people Irena wore a Star of David.
Sendler was able to cooperate with members of the Social Services and a Polish relief organisation that was tolerated under strict Nazi supervision. It was under the guise of the typhus prevention and the inspection of sanitary conditions that Sendler and her colleagues were able smuggle out children and babies sometimes disguising them as packages in ambulances and trams. There still remains an old courthouse that was at the edge of the Warsaw Ghetto and was one of the routes taken by the ‘smugglers.’

The children were not only placed with Polish families but also in a Catholic orphanage run by a convent of nuns. Some were smuggled to priests in parish rectories. Sendler worked with social worker and nun Matyida Getter and rescued 2500 vulnerable Jewish children. 

Sendler was careful, although the children were given new identities and homes their original names were diligently recorded and stored in jars so that when war was over they would be returned to Jewish relatives.

When the Nazis uncovered her activities she was tortured and sentenced to death, however  she managed to evade execution and she survived the war
In 1965 Sendler was recognised by the State of Israel as Righteous among the Nations.  Later she awarded Poland’s highest honour for her wartime humanitarian efforts; she was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 sadly she didn’t win.

I had not heard of Irena Sendler until I read about a play called  Life in a Jar  produced in 1999 by students who had researched Sendler’s life story. It has been also adapted for television as The courageous heart of Irena Sendler

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2013 12:18 pm

    2500 children, their families, and foster families, the workers and Irene Sendler all gave the world a peace prize. They embody all the is good and wonderful, brave and courageous in the human spirit. Thank you for sharing this fine lady’s story with us.

  2. January 12, 2013 6:20 am

    What a lovely gesture Thank You _/\_ x

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  1. Heroic Headlines 1-11-13 | Moral Heroes

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