Sunday, October 18, 2015

Irena Sendler Unknown Heroine of the Warsaw Ghetto

Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all the Jewish ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII.  400,000 Jews from the vicinity were imprisoned in an area of 1.3 sq. mile.  Epidemics and high death rates were caused by poor hygienic conditions, lack of food and medical supplies.  Irena Sendler was a 29 year old Polish Catholic social worker.  She was employed by the Welfare Dept. of the Warsaw municipality.  Social worker were not allowed inside the ghetto.  Irena obtained a fake identification and passed herself off as a nurse.  She could then be allowed to bring in food, clothes and medicine. When the deadly intentions of the Nazis had become clear, she joined a Polish underground organization called Zegota.  They began rescuing Jewish children by smuggling them out in boxes, suitcases, sacks and even coffins.  Babies had to be sedated to quiet their cries.  Some of the children were taken away through a network of basements and secret passages.  Operations had to be timed to the second.  Irena would bury jars containing the children's real and assumed names in friends' gardens.  She was captured and sentenced to death.  Despite having both her feet and legs broken by her captors, she never told who were her co-conspirators or where the jars of names were buried.  She escaped death when the underground activists bribed officials to release her.  Her name was added to a list of executed prisoners.  She continued her underground activities, but had to go into hiding.  Because of this, Irena could not even attend her mother's funeral.  She helped smuggle around 2,500 Jewish children out of the Ghetto and hide them.  Irena Sendler was not recognized for her heroism until the last years of her life, when she became a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize candidate.      Information from    The Righteous Among Us and Irena Sendler: Life in a Jar

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