Random pictures from years gone by….
Irena Sendler (1910-2008) RIP
12th May 2008
A newspaper story about the death of Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who helped to save 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto during the second world war.
Sendler was a social worker and an active member of the Polish resistance in German-occupied Warsaw, and eventually became head of the children’s section of Żegota, the Polish Council To Aid Jews, which was an organisation within the resistance movement. She obtained a special permit to enter the Warsaw ghetto to check for signs of typhus, and it was while conducting inspections of the sanitary conditions in the ghetto that she was able to smuggle out babies and small children. She also led a team of people within Żegota who risked their lives on a daily basis helping to smuggle the children out, creating false documents and finding homes for the rescued children outside the ghetto - with Catholic convents, orphanages and Polish families, who also risked their lives by providing the children with shelter (Poland was the only country in German-occupied Europe in which offering any help to a Jew was punishable by death). Information about the children’s original and new identities was buried in jars, in the hope that they could eventually be reunited with their families.
In 1943, Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo, severely tortured and sentenced to death, but Żegota managed to save her while she was on her way to be executed by bribing the German guards. She was listed on public bulletin boards as among those who had been killed that day and spent the rest of the war in hiding, but continued her work for the Jewish children. After the war, Sendler and her co-workers gathered together all of their records with the names and locations of the rescued children and handed them over to their former Żegota colleague Adolf Berman at the Central Committee of Polish Jews. However, they soon discovered that almost all of the children’s family members had been killed in the extermination camp that the Germans built at Treblinka, or had otherwise gone missing. Many of the children themselves could no longer be found in the aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, as a result of which approximately 250000 civilians were killed, the whole city was destroyed and the surviving population was expelled <i>en masse</i> by the Germans.
Nevertheless, Sendler’s small team managed to save twice as many Jews from the holocaust as Oskar Schindler and one third of the total number of Jews rescued by the country of Denmark - in circumstances that were infinitely more difficult. In 1965, she was recognised by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among The Nations.
Sadly, in the aftermath of her death her memory has been tainted by being the subject of a malicious email chain letter
, the main purpose of which was to attack Al Gore and promote the agenda of the American far right. It also contained some misleading “facts” about Irena, including the false claim that she was German, describing her as a plumber or “sewer specialist” instead of a social worker, with no mention of her role in the Polish resistance or the work of Żegota - and it’s a shame to see this garbage being regularly re-posted on Tumblr and elsewhere….
Please read the real facts about this amazing woman here: