May 12, 2008, - 6:34 pm

Irena Sendler, RIP: Heroic Gentile Woman Rescued 2,500 Jewish Children From Holocaust

By Debbie Schlussel
Thanks to the many readers and friends who sent word of the passing of the heroic Irena Sendler, who died earlier today. Even though she was tortured within inches of her life, she risked it anyway and saved at least 2,500 Jewish children from deaths at the hands of the Nazis. She was 98 years old.
Irena Sendler, a righteous Gentile and Polish woman, has a special place in heaven:

WARSAW, Poland: Irena Sendler credited with saving some 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, some of them in baskets died Monday, her family said.


Irena Sendler:

Angel on Earth Risked Her Life to Save 2,500 Others

President Lech Kaczynski expressed “great regret” over Sendler’s death, calling her “extremely brave” and “an exceptional person.” In recent years, Kaczynski had spearheaded a campaign to put Sendler’s name forward as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker with the city’s welfare department when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, launching World War II. Warsaw’s Jews were forced into a walled-off ghetto.
Seeking to save the ghetto’s children, Sendler masterminded risky rescue operations. Under the pretext of inspecting sanitary conditions during a typhoid outbreak, she and her assistants ventured inside the ghetto and smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and in trams, sometimes wrapped up as packages.
Teenagers escaped by joining teams of workers forced to labor outside the ghetto. They were placed in families, orphanages, hospitals or convents.
“Irena was truly a noble lady and a great humanitarian who helped save thousands of children and was saved herself from death at the last minute for her activities,” said Stanlee Stahl, executive vice president of the New York-based Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.
Records show that Sendler’s team of about 20 people saved nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto between October 1940 and its final liquidation in April 1943, when the Nazis burned the ghetto, shooting the residents or sending them to death camps.
“Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this earth, and not a title to glory,” Sendler said in 2007 in a letter to the Polish Senate after lawmakers honored her efforts in 2007.
In hopes of one day uniting the children with their families most of whom perished in the Nazis’ death camps Sendler wrote the children’s real names on slips of paper that she kept at home.
When German police came to arrest her in 1943, an assistant managed to hide the slips, which Sendler later buried in a jar under an apple tree in an associate’s yard. Some 2,500 names were recorded.
“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.”
Anyone caught helping Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland risked being summarily shot, along with family members a fate Sendler only barely escaped herself after the 1943 raid by the Gestapo.
The Nazis took her to the notorious Pawiak prison, which few people left alive. Gestapo agents tortured her repeatedly, leaving Sendler with scars on her body but she refused to betray her team.
“I kept silent. I preferred to die than to reveal our activity,” she was quoted as saying in Anna Mieszkowska’s biography, “Mother of the Children of the Holocaust: The Story of Irena Sendler.”
Zegota, an underground organization helping Jews, paid a bribe to German guards to free her from the prison. Under a different name, she continued her work.
After World War II, Sendler worked as a social welfare official and director of vocational schools, continuing to assist some of the children she rescued.
“A great person has died a person with a great heart, with great organizational talents, a person who always stood on the side of the weak,” Warsaw Ghetto survivor Marek Eldeman told TVN24 television.
In 1965, Sendler became one of the first so-called 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.

A true angel lived on earth amidst the death and despair of the Nazis.
Irena Sendler, Rest in Peace.

22 Responses

Debbie, thanks for the tribute to Ms. Sendler. In the midst of all the hatred and strife in this world, it’s good to know that God has people on earth who are courageous and wits enough to do the right thing under very trying circumstances. Ms. Sendler is truly a role model and I thank God that he put her on this earth…if only for a little while.

JibberJabber on May 12, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Debbie, Thanks for alerting us to this story. I had never heard of her before. I will do some reading as a result of your work.

lonewolf on May 12, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Blessed Be Irena Sendler, and Blessed Be to all the generations of the children she rescued from the hands of the Nazis.
Never forget.

wolf2012 on May 12, 2008 at 8:05 pm

I had never heard of her either, and appreciated the information.

c f on May 12, 2008 at 8:24 pm

RIP and thanks for those like her. How could gore have beaten her for the peace prize?

mindy1 on May 12, 2008 at 9:35 pm

Irena Sendler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year. She lost to Al Gore. Who do you think deserved the prize? Al Gore for his Global Warning Hoax or Irena for saving the lives of 2500 Jews? The committee felt Al Gore deserved the prize. Jewish lives are still not important to people in power. Europe hasn’t changed or learned from the evil yet. The Jewish people will win because they have G-d and his blessings.

gr8muscles on May 12, 2008 at 10:30 pm

The world exists solely due to the merit of such people. Irena Sendler lived a long life on account of her righteous deeds. Alas, even good people still die. Our world is far too corrupt for those who are good for it to pursue their gifts to the fullest. We see only part of the picture but the One who knows sees it all. In a perfect world, people like Sendler would live forever. Since they can’t, there is indeed a very special place for them in Heaven.

NormanF on May 12, 2008 at 11:06 pm

Too bad there aren’t more of this type of person.

samurai on May 13, 2008 at 12:25 am

What a wonderful courageous woman! Thanks for writing this, Debbie.
Gr8muscles… please tell me you are joking about this beautiful hero losing the Nobel Peace Prize to the perpetually bloated AL BORE?

Freudianslippers on May 13, 2008 at 1:44 am

An amazing woman. My wife’s father survived/escaped the Warsaw Ghetto, smuggling food in when he could. He worked for the underground and perhaps he knew her. I’m looking forward to reading her biography….I’ve read so many books on the Holocaust recently but so few concerning victory and triumph and heroism in the midst of all the horror and despair. Rudolf Vrba’s book about his escape from Auschwitz is worth reading and the Bielski brothers’ story.

johndoe on May 13, 2008 at 4:49 am

Irene LOST to Al Gore! Really? The prize has ceased to have meaning and should no longer be given out.
In a perfect world, those who voted that way would immediately be thrown in jail, indefinitely, for being so unashamedly stupid.
HERE IS A BETTER summary of her life, one that properly acknowledges her religious outlook:

The Canadien on May 13, 2008 at 9:32 am

They don’t give Nobels to heroes. You have to write meaningless drivel to get one of those.

John Harper on May 13, 2008 at 10:17 am

Here is an article about Gore and Sendler.
Al Gore vs. Irena Sendler for the Nobel Peace Prize
Posted under Al Gore | by Jeremy
Too much has been made about Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize ? the various conservative media entities are running around screaming foul like their heads have been cut off. While I agree that Gore doesn?t deserve the prize, I?m actually more surprised that anyone is shocked. I mean, all credibility dissipated when the Nobel went to Arafat.
Nevertheless, the following is the story of Irena Sendler ? one of Gore?s co-nominees. Sure ? she didn?t properly capitalize monetarily from her deeds. Sure ? she didn?t become a pop icon. But, she did save 2500 Jewish kids from Nazi extermination. Does that count? Nah ? films about global warming ? that?s where it?s at.
As media do a victory lap over Friday?s Nobel Peace Prize announcement, it seems a metaphysical certitude that few Americans are aware of the other 180 nominees for the award besides the Global Warmingist-in-Chief Al Gore.
For instance, meet Irena Sendler, a 97-year-old Polish woman who saved 2,500 Jewish children from certain death in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.
Hadn?t heard of her? Well, don?t feel bad, for since the Nobel Committee announced the nominees in February, there have only been 107 reports about Mrs. Sendler being one of them. By contrast, Al Gore and ?Nobel? have been mentioned in 2,912.
To put an even finer point on the astounding difference in media coverage, since the nominees were announced, Mrs. Sendler has been referred to in only six newscasts on television and radio, one by conservative Glenn Beck. Gore?s Nobel nomination was discussed in 249!
With that in mind, here is Sendler?s story – as presented by the Irena Sendler Project, the fabulous brainchild of some students in rural Kansas – which media have deplorably chosen to boycott in favor of championing a wealthy American liberal who made a movie containing egregious scientific falsehoods (h/t NBer mattm):
Irena Sendler, born in 1910, was raised by her Catholic parents to respect and love people regardless of their ethnicity or social status. Her father, a physician, died from typhus that he contracted during an epidemic in 1917. He was the only doctor in his town near Warsaw who would treat the poor, mostly Jewish victims of this tragic disease. As he was dying, he told 7-year-old Irena, ?If you see someone drowning you must try to rescue them, even if you cannot swim.? In 1939 the Nazis swept through Poland and imprisoned the Jews in ghettos where they were first starved to death and then systematically murdered in killing camps. Irena, by than a social worker in Warsaw, saw the Jewish people drowning and resolved to do what she could to rescue as many as possible, especially the children. Working with a network of other social workers and brave Poles, mostly women, she smuggled 2,500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto and hid them safely until the end of the war. Sendler took great risks – obtaining forged papers for the children, disguising herself as an infection control nurse, diverting German occupation funds for the support of children in hiding. She entered the Warsaw ghetto, sometimes two and three times a day, and talked Jewish parents into giving up their children. Sendler drugged the babies with sedatives and smuggled them past Nazi guards in gunny sacks, boxes and coffins. She helped the older ones escape through the sewers, through secret openings in the wall, through the courthouse, through churches, any clever way she and her network could evade the Nazis. Once outside the ghetto walls, Sendler gave the children false names and documents and placed them in convents, orphanages and with Polish families. In 1942 the Polish underground organization ZEGOTA recruited her to lead their Children?s Division, providing her with money and support. Her hope was that after the war she could reunite the children with surviving relatives, or at least return their Jewish identities. To that end she kept thin tissue paper lists of each child?s Jewish name, their Polish name and address. She hid the precious lists in glass jars buried under an apple tree in the back yard of one of her co-conspirators. In 1943 Irena Sendler was arrested, tortured and sentenced to death by firing squad. She never divulged the location of the lists or her Polish underground contacts. At the last moment she was saved by ZEGOTA which bribed a guard to secure her freedom. She still bears the scars and disability of her torture.
God bless you, Irena. For all I know, you saved one of my relatives.
As a post script, I wanted to point out some of the major media outlets in our nation that boycotted her nomination. A search of LexisNexis identified the following: The New York Times; USA Today; The Los Angeles Times; The Chicago Tribune; The San Francisco Chronicle; The Miami Herald; CNN (Beck?s report was on CNN Headline News); MSNBC; CBS; Fox News (only Prime Time broadcasts and Fox News Sunday are transcribed).
Obviously, there are many more that ignored Sendler. In fact, as I analyze this further, most of the 107 reports were from foreign media sources, not American ones.
Why might that be?

gr8muscles on May 13, 2008 at 10:50 am

Ms. Sendler is a genuine hero. Debbie, please honor Ms. Sendler’s memory by remembering a quote attributed to her in The Guardian in March of 2007: “I was brought up to believe that a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality.”

Audacious on May 13, 2008 at 11:37 am

It takes a special kind of person to put others before oneself, especially in the worst of conditions. Thanks, Debbie for sharing the story of this courageous woman.

America on May 13, 2008 at 1:42 pm

I have not heard of this fantastic lady either. God bless her.
It’s a sad comment on our world, if so many knew so little about the character and devotion of such a person.
Why is truth and true goodness so hard to find today?
What do we get today…Gloria Steinham? Nancy Grape? Michelle Obama? Condelisa Rice? Karyn Hughes?
Sheesh. Oops, almost forgot the grandmother suicide-bomber from Gaza. Bravo baby boomers…bravo.
Thanks Debbie for the post!

Nuggler on May 13, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Al Gore is making big time $$$ with his GW scam.
He is in NO DANGER of being arrested, tortured or losing his life.
Yet the elite intelligencia on the left insist they are for the downtrodden and persecuted. NOT! They are for whatever get them $$$ and power.

SamAdams on May 13, 2008 at 2:40 pm

“Every child saved with my help…is the justification of my existence on this earth, and not a title to glory,” Sendler said in 2007 in a letter to the Polish Senate after lawmakers honored her efforts in 2007.
Ms. Sendler believed we are all put on this earth to do something good and to help. She put her money where her mouth was, so to speak.
Once in awhile, G-d puts a person on earth that can almost make you believe in goodness again. Ms. Sendler was one of those. May she rest in peace until the day G-d rewards the love and sacrifice she demonstrated here on earth.

kozanne on May 13, 2008 at 3:24 pm

HOW PAGANS assess things.
Rewarding efforts for animal welfare or Mother Earth above all elseƖ

The Canadien on May 13, 2008 at 5:22 pm

THANKS DEBBIE for noting this inspiring life. Like some of your other readership, I had not heard of her before, either!!

The Canadien on May 13, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Thank you for this beautiful article. I had to close the door to my office as I read it because tears ran down my cheeks as I read the whole thing. I cant explain why.

Madmoney on May 22, 2008 at 7:56 pm

I protest -not only my TOTAL admiration for the GREAT human example set by the heroic Irena Sendler who was beyond brave in Warsaw saving kids from the appalling ravages of the Nazis –BUT -I also protest & despise these right-wing creeps, & lunatics-incl loathsome shrill Glen Beck on down the list-incl writers here–who cheaply/slyly use this fantastic woman’s legacy to attack the liberal-left & Al Gore over the Nobel & Global Warming issue (as Sendler was nominated for an HONORARY Nobel these dummies raise a false issue as an ax to grind -no surprise there!) -I hope some of them at least feel a tad shamed since G.Warming is now accepted as FACT by ALL except carbon-guzzling interests & MORONS!! AND Al Gore was an important step in the slow & difficult process of raising awareness desoite being hindered at every turn by vested un-enlightened interests! he was just one notable of many voices’in the wilderness’from the’thinking & enlightened’ left & center who have now been vindicated. Thanks to them all but I came primarily to thank those who SINCERELY keep the legacy of this magnificent heroine Irena Sender ALIVE!–in a POSTIVE way!

Neil Hunt on April 8, 2015 at 6:51 pm

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