Irena Sendler – Who Helped 2,500 Jewish Kids In Warsaw Ghetto
07-02-2017 7:00am | by Geeta Rai
Irena Sendler – who helped 2,500 Jewish kids during the Warsaw Ghetto :
Oscar Schindler managed to save 1,200 Jews which is far less than what Irena has done beyond the limit under those circumstances.
Oscar also awarded as Righteous among the Nations (a non-Jew who saved Jews during the Holocaust ) by Yad Vashem in 1965.
In 1999, some students from rural Kansas high school were looking for material for their school play and they discovered the work and sacrifices done by Irena for which she was nominated Nobel peace prize and lost to Al Gore.
Irena was born on February 15, 1910, in the town of Otwock. She was a daughter of a doctor, whose motto was, “Jump into the water to save someone drowning, whether or not you can swim”.He stood up to his motto and was the only doctor in the town who treats Jews without any objections.
In 1935, Poland passed a new rule in schools for Jews who will sit in an isolated area which will be away from non-Jews. Many protested against it and decided not to attend any class.
Irena was studying polish Literature at the Warsaw University and joined these protests for which she was suspended for next three years.
Even with the suspension, Irena earned her degree and found a job with the Warsaw Social Welfare Department.
It was 1939 when Germany invaded Poland; she was among those responsible for the state-run canteens. They helped poor, elder people, those who were orphaned, provided food, clothes and all first aid reinforcement needed.
They also helped Jews to get false documents with a different identity to pass them as a Catholic which will keep them away from death.
In 1941, Germany passed another law which has harsh effects on Poland, as it will be punishable by death for those who will help Jew in any sort possible.
If somebody will be caught under this law, the sentence will be extended to the entire family bit Irena continued her work.
Dr. Janusz Korczak was a Jewish pediatrician, children’s author, and educator who was even respected within German’s and wanted to spare him from death.
He ran an orphanage for Jewish children by the name of Nasz Dom until August 1942, when they were ordered to the Treblinka extermination camp.
Many Jews with international reputation were spared death and Dr. Korczak had a choice but he refused and insisted that he will accompany his charges to Treblinka.
Irena stood there and saw all this with children dressed in their best with dolls in their hands and German soldiers came to collect 192 0r 196 under the case. She also saw the face of Korczak and knew she will not m again. That was the time when she decided to take up his legacy and help Jew people. She joined Zegota, a polish resistance movement also called the council to Aid Jews. She was assigned to children’s section and sent to the Warsaw Ghetto.
The Warsaw Ghetto was set up in 1940 with a total area of 1.3 square miles which was packed by 400,000 Jews with 254,000 were sent to Treblinka. They were sheltered with no food and medical care so that they could die slowly. At that time Germans were scared of typhus, a disease which was spreading across the nation. To minimize this threat, they allowed social workers in to monitor the situation.
Irena’s job was to look after the hygiene, and she wore a Star of David armband to annoy the guards and to show her solidarity with the Jews. She was accompanied by a dog, which was trained to bark on command.
Irena and her colleagues convinced Jewish parents to hand over their babies and toddlers and snuck them out in suitcases, medical bags, ambulances, and carts. While traveling when the children woke up and started crying, the dog started barking loud, so that the guards wouldn’t hear the cries. With the older children, they have explained a dead to guards and were being taken out for disposal.
She did this every day, also recorded the names and details of each child with a hope of reuniting them with their parents. These names were put in a jar and buried beneath an apple tree right beside the German barracks. Each child was provided with a false identity and even taught Christian prayers and how to behave in a catholic mass.
On October 20, 1943, some reported her to the Gestapo Irena Sendler was arrested and interrogated for the names of her co-workers. She refused to give out any name and then she was tortured. They also broke her legs and feet.
With no success in getting out the names, so they ordered her execution. On the day of execution, Zegota bribed her guards and she escaped and hid for some time.
Later she returned to Warsaw with a false identity and worked as a nurse in a public hospital and managed to hide five more Jews.
In 1945, after the war Poland became communist and Irena Sendler was arrested for her involvement with the Home Army. Due to her arrest, she gave birth to Andrej prematurely and was released with a condition to join the communist party.
With all the work she has done for Jews, Israel recognized it in 1965 but Poland refused to let her go for claiming the award till 1983.
Her son died on September 23, 1999, the same day when students of Kansas University found about her. Students of the University was so fascinated with the work and they made a play based on her story called “Life in a Jar”. Later they found out that she is still alive and sent her a translated copy of their manuscript.
On November 10, 2003, the polish government gave her the order of the White Eagle, highest civilian award. Pope John II.
Polish and Israeli governments and the Union town high school nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize but lost it to Al gore.
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