True greatness 0

This story of genuine heroism is by Daniel Greenfield, from his website Sultan Knish. We quote it almost in full:

Irena Sendler was a young Polish social worker when the war broke out in 1939. [Although she was not Jewish] she  became active in the Zegota* underground and helped forge documents that would allow Jews to go into hiding. All in all historians estimate that Sendler and other Zegota members assisted over 500 Jews during those early days of the war.

Irena Sendler

When the Warsaw ghetto was established in 1941 Sendler obtained false identity papers that allowed her to enter the ghetto as a nurse who specialized in infectious diseases. At first, her goal was to bring in food and medicines into the ghetto but as she sized up the situation, she realized that the Germans’ ultimate goal was to kill all of the ghetto Jews. Sendler began to smuggle children out of the ghetto. At first she helped remove children who were living on the street, orphaned when their parents were killed or taken away. Slowly however she changed her efforts to try to help children whose parents were still alive.

In an interview conducted over 50 years after her wartime activities Sendler told her interviewers that the memories of her encounters with the parents still gave her nightmares. “I talked the mothers out of their children….Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn’t give me the child. Their first question was, ‘What guarantee is there that the child will live?’ I said, ‘None. I don’t even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today.”

All in all it is estimated that Sendler was able to smuggle over 2500 children out of the ghetto. She often sedated the children, especially the small ones, and carried them out in bags, luggage or toolboxes. Sometimes she hid them under her tram seat while at other times she placed them in carts covered with garbage or snarling dogs to deter the Germans from investigating further. Many of the older children were guided out of the ghetto through the sewer pipes that ran underneath the city.

Once a child had been moved to the safe side of Warsaw Sendler organized a hiding place for the child. Some of the children needed forged documents that would allow them to be placed with sympathetic families while others were taken to orphanages and convents. Sendler meticulously documented all of the names and hiding places of the children on tissue paper which she placed in glass jars and buried in her garden. Sendler hoped that the children could be reunited with their families after the war or, if not, with the Jewish community.

In October of 1943 Sendler was arrested by the Germans and taken to the notorious Pawiak prison. The Nazis tortured her and broke both of her legs but she did not reveal any information about her activities, her comrades or the whereabouts of “her” children. Sendler was scheduled to be executed but Zegota was able to bribe a German guard who released her shortly before her scheduled execution. Sendler went into hiding where she remained for the duration of the war.

Israel honored Irena Sendler as a “Righteous Gentile” in 1965.

In 1999 a group of students from Kansas City …  set about recording her story. They were able to meet with her in 2003 and interview her and from that research they established a project called “Life in a Jar” which … explores the horrors of the Holocaust through the actions of [this] one brave non-Jewish individual. … They were able to create a video presentation and act out their performance about Irena Sendler in hundreds of locations.

*For more about the Zegota organization, go here.

Posted under Anti-Semitism, Ethics, nazism by Jillian Becker on Sunday, July 7, 2013

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