Irena Sendler Dies in Poland, a True Hero
If you have never heard of Irena Sendler, you are not alone. Up until I saw that she had died this past few days I, also, had never heard of her. But make no mistake; she IS a hero. She is credited with saving over 2,500 Jewish children from certain death during the dark days of the Nazi regime.
… Irena Sendler. An unfamiliar name to most people, but this remarkable woman defied the Nazis and saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto. As a health worker, she sneaked the children out between 1942 and 1943 to safe hiding places and found non-Jewish families to adopt them …
Irena Sendler, who wore a star armband as a sign of her solidarity to Jews, began smuggling children out in an ambulance. She recruited at least one person from each of the ten centers of the Social Welfare Department. With their help, she issued hundreds of false documents with forged signatures…
“‘Can you guarantee they will live?'” Irena later recalled the distraught parents asking. But she could only guarantee they would die if they stayed. “In my dreams,” she said, “I still hear the cries when they left their parents.”
Irena Sendler accomplished her incredible deeds with the active assistance of the church. “I sent most of the children to religious establishments,” she recalled. “I knew I could count on the Sisters.” Irena also had a remarkable record of cooperation when placing the youngsters: “No one ever refused to take a child from me,” she said. …[ http://www.auschwitz.dk/Sendler.htm ]
In October, 1943 Irena Sendler was arrested. Despite being tortured by the Nazis, she refused to disclose the names of any of the children rescued, or the names of the families she had placed them with. Even though she was the only person who knew the childrens’ information, and was crippled for life as a result of the torture, Irena’s spirit was never broken. On the day she was to be executed she was saved by fellow members of the Zegota who bribed the Gestapo agents who were escorting her to be executed. She was left unconscious in a forest with both her legs and arms broken and listed as having been executed. Later, she retrived the names of the children, trying to reunite them with their birth families, only to find that many of the families had perished in the death camps.
In 1965, Sendler became one of the first Righteous Gentiles honored by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem for wartime heroics. Poland’s communist leaders at that time would not allow her to travel to Israel; she collected the award in 1983. There have been amazing testimonials from some of the now adult children Irena saved in those days.
“It took a true miracle to save a Jewish child,” Elzbieta Ficowska, who was saved by Sendler’s team as a baby in 1942, recalled in an AP interview in 2007. “Mrs. Sendler saved not only us, but also our children and grandchildren and the generations to come.”
This interesting video shows a play based on Irena Sendler’s life.
In 1991, she was made an honorary citizen of Israel. In 2003, Irena was awarded Poland’s highest distinction: the Order of the White Eagle.
Irena spent her last years quietly in Poland. She has officially been designated a national hero in Poland and schools are named in her honor. Annual Irena Sendler days are celebrated throughout Europe and the United States.
Irena Sendler did not think of herself as a hero. She once said:
“I could have done more,” … “This regret will follow me to my death.”
Irena died May 12th, and our world is a colder place for her passing. Rest in peace Irena. You are one of MY heroes.