Irena Sendler was one of the most courageous women of this Century. She was a member of Zegota, a secret underground organization that was created by a group of people along with the Polish government that was in exile in London during the war. They helped hide Jews and provided for them so they could escape. During the war, Zegota members managed to save 5000 Jews. At that time Irena Sendler was a Catholic nurse/social worker who worked with the poor and was in charge of taking care of the Typhus cases in Warsaw, Poland. When Hitler invaded he forced all the Jewish people into the Warsaw ghetto and cut off all supplies of food, or any other kind of help from them. When Irena saw the Jewish children being corralled to their death she was devastated, then she took action. As a public health nurse, she was in a unique position to help with Zegota.
Irena smuggled 2500 children out of the ghetto in coffins, tool boxes, burlap sacks, garbage cans, supply crates, and ambulances, under the disguise of them having Typhus. She cleverly trained her dog to bark continuously when being stopped, and questioned by guards so they would not hear the baby’s crying. She then placed them in private Catholic homes, and Catholic convents. Irena kept a record of the children’s real, and false names so they could be reunited with their families after the war. She buried that archive in a jar, under her apple tree in her yard to keep it and the children safe.
Irena was betrayed by another woman who under torture told the Nazis about her. Irena was then captured, tortured, beaten, and interrogated. Both her legs and feet were broken, then she was sentenced to death by firing squad. Still, Irena would rather have given her life than betray her mission. She knew all those children would have died, and even worse more people would have died. Poland was the only country where if someone was caught hiding a Jew, that person, their entire family, and even their neighbor was executed. Zegota managed to intercede and get a guard to release Irena, however, she was left a cripple because of the brutal beating she had endured.
Movies and biographies have been done depicting her life, and extraordinary courage but this woman has not gotten half the recognition she deserves! Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize but did not get it; she lost out to Al Gore. She has been given the titles of “Angel of the Warsaw Ghetto,” and by the state of Israel she is called, “Righteous Among The Nations.” Irena died on May 12, 2008, at the age of 98. She stands out as a real role model, and one of history’s most courageous, humble, and loving women!
Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth and not a title to glory.”(Irena)