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Irena Sendler

When we hear stories about people who saved the Jewish people during the Holocaust, we always hear about the men. Everyone knows who Oskar Schindler is yet very few know who Irena Sendler is, even though she saved over 1,500 more Jews than Schindler.

Irena Sendler was born Irena Krzyżanowska on February 15, 1910 in Warsaw, Poland to Dr.Stanisław Krzyżanowski, and his wife, Janina. Her father died in February 1917 from typhus that he had caught while treating patients who others refused to treat for fear of catching the disease, among them many Jewish patients.

In 1939 when the Germans first invaded Poland, she started small by giving much needed food and shelter to Jews Once the Warsaw Ghetto was erected in 1940, Sendler could no longer help isolated Jews, so she started saving children. Sendler used her papers as a Polish social worker and papers from one of the workers of the Contagious Disease Department to enter the Warsaw Ghetto. Each time she entered the ghetto she left with the children.
She soon had a network of 10 people working with her. They made sure to inform the families caring for the rescued children that they must return them to their Jewish families after the war. To ensure this she kept very detailed records as to where each child was placed in jars buried in a neighbor’s backyard.

On October 20, 1943, Sendler was arrested and was placed in the notorious Piawiak prison, where she was constantly questioned and tortured. During the questioning, she had her legs and feet fractured. She refused to answer and was sentenced to death. Her executioner was bribed by others and helped her escape. Regardless, The Germans boisterously broadcast her execution. Posters were put up all over the city with the false news of her death.

She lived hidden for the remaining years of the war, just like the children she rescued. When the war was finally over, she dug up the bottles and began the job of finding the children and trying to find a living parent. Almost all the parents of the children Sendler had saved, died at the Treblinka death camp. Some children were sent to Israel and many others were adopted by Polish families.

Sendler was announced as the 2003 winner of the Jan Karski award for Valor and Courage. The announcement was made on July 24, 2003 and the award ceremony took place later that year in October 23 in Washington, D.C. She died on May 12 , 2008 in Warsaw, Poland.

During Passover, as the Jewish community celebrates their cultures and freedom from slavery, let us remember a woman and her jars who saved so many during the Holocaust.

April 8, 2015 - Posted by | Auschwitz, This Day In History | , , ,

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