Irena Sendler was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1910. Sendler was not Jewish however her father who was a Doctor had many Jewish patients and always taught Sendler to stand up for those treated unequally especially “history’s most stepped-on religious community” (Lee). The Germans had started transporting Jewish people to the Warsaw Ghetto, “Irena used her

connections as an employee of the Social Welfare Department to create false papers for more than three thousand Jewish families” (Lee). Sadly, most people within the Ghetto “died from starvation and disease before deportation to concentration camps ever began” (Lee) but this did not stop Sendler from helping those in need. She quickly joined “a Polish underground group” (Lee) dedicated to helping Jews and took charge of saving children from the Ghetto. Her employment allowed her to enter the Ghetto and because the Nazi’s “were certain Jews were filthy, diseased subhumans carrying all manner of germs” (Lee) she was permitted inside to check for illness and disease. Of course, this was all a feint so she could smuggle children and babies in “increasingly creative ways” (Lee) out of the Ghetto and “place them with Christian families” (Lee).

Some examples would be hiding children in boxes, suitcases and bags alongside training her dog to bark when the vehicle was approached “to drown out the children’s cries” (Lee). Unfortunately, Sendler was caught in 1943 and was “tortured for information” (Lee) about the resistance in which both her legs were broken. The brutality did not deter Sendler and she gave the Nazi’s nothing. After being sentenced to death, her resistance group managed to establish a rescue mission and “bribed Irena’s guards” to save her. She managed to escape, created a fake identity and returned to Warsaw to work as a nurse in a hospital she used to also hide Jews. By the end of the war, “Irena saved over 2500 Jewish children” (Lee) which is “twice as many as Oskar Schindler, of Spielberg film fame” (Lee). Sendler had also kept the names of all the children she saved on “pieces of cigarette paper” (Lee) and “buried them in her backyard” in glass jars with the hope that she could reunite each child with their families again. Sendler’s work was never recognised until 2007 when she was nominated for a Nobel peace prize but lost to Al Gore for his presentation on environmental awareness.

References:

Lee, Mackenzi, and Petra Eriksson. Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World. Abrams Image, 2018.

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