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Irena Sendler - a Polish Activist, Righteous Among the Nations


05-12-2018
ostatnia aktualizacja 05-12-2018, 10:19

10 years ago Irena Sendler died – social activist, Righteous Among the Nations, who together with members of Warsaw social welfare circles and the Żegota organisation helped many fugitives from the Warsaw Ghetto.



10 years ago Irena Sendler died. Foto: Mariusz Kubik, CC-BY-SA-3.010 years ago Irena Sendler died. Foto: Mariusz Kubik, CC-BY-SA-3.0

When the Germans walled off one-third of the residents of Warsaw, Irena Sendler and her friends – using legal passes – smuggled food, medicine and money inside, under the pretext of sanitary control. After the Germans started their liquidation campaign, Sendler together with Żegota organised a mission to save children from the ghetto and hide them on the Aryan side.

Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker when the Nazis invaded Poland.  After Warsaw’s Jews were imprisoned behind the ghetto walls without food or medicine, Sendler and those she most trusted smuggled aid in.  They then began smuggling orphans out, hiding them in convents, orphanages and private homes, both in the city and in the Polish countryside.  Before the Nazis burned the ghetto to the ground, they managed to rescue over 2,500 children.

Over the next two years this groups of women organized by Sendler would care for the children.  They would disguise their identities and move them constantly lest they be discovered and killed by the Nazis.  In Poland death was the immediate dictate if one was discovered aiding a Jew.  Many joined with the underground to get assistance to feed and protect their charges.  It was hoped that after the war, the children could be re-united with their Jewish families.

Sendler was eventually captured by the Gestapo, imprisoned and tortured after refusing to divulge the identities of her co-workers.  On the way to her execution, she escaped thanks to friends who managed to bribe a guard at the last moment.  Irena and her supporters were silenced by the Communists who came to power after the Nazis.  It was verboten to speak about the activities of partisans and most were afraid to talk about their actions for many decades afterwards.

Did You Know  that Sendler continued to help children after the war? In a destroyed city, she organised orphanages. She has been distinguished many times for these efforts including – one year before her death – with the Order of the Smile, an international decoration awarded for activities that bring joy to children.

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