Irena Sendler was born February 15, 1910, and died on May 12, 2008.* Irena lived through the horrors of World War II in the heart of Poland. Her homeland had essentially become a war zone, and her compatriots had fallen victim to Hitler’s cruelties. Irena loved her country and its people. She could have fled for her life or hunkered down and hid, but instead she decided to go out and help those who could not help themselves. Her motivation was one of love, fighting for all she was worth, against someone who was deeply motivated by hate.The place was Warsaw, Poland; the year was, 1942.* Hitler was working hard to divest the Jews of any means of life and livelihood, and he was succeeding. The Jews were daily being thrown into the vicious holocaust, herded into ghettos like cattle and made to work long hours while being fed perniciously small amounts of food. Their crime was simply being Jewish or disabled or black. Irena felt called to help, in any way she could. Sometimes this meant pushing a tumbril down the street that looked as though it had a load of bricks in it, but in fact it was only a few bricks covering a box that held a small infant which she smuggled out. Other times she would go under the cover of being a social worker taking “sick children” out of the ghettos for medical aid. She sometimes had to go to great lengths to be vouchsafed passage through the gates of the ghetto and out to safety with the children. Every time they tried, they were fearful of the incisive voice of a guard discovering them, but thankfully none ever did. Irena worked very hard to protect the children. By giving the children a non-Jewish sounding pseudonym and teaching them a “story of their life”, she succeeded in temporizing the authorities ever watchful eye. Irena did everything she could to return them to their parents, if they were still alive, after the war was over. Unfortunately, most of their parents had been killed at the Treblinka extermination camp. She kept the real name of each child as well as their new names and where they had come from in a jar which she hid well out of the Gestapo’s range. Irena saved quite a few children before the day in 1945, the Gestapo found out and arrested her. She was taken to a concentration camp, tortured, and sentenced to death. This sentence would have been carried out if it were not for the Zegota, (the council to aid Jews) who resued her from the camp and hid her. She had been working for Zegota all along.*
Over all, Irena saved a total of 2,500 Jewish children from certain death, if not by the cruel hand of the Gestapo, then by shear starvation and lack of proper shelter and clothing. Though she was not a Jew herself, she knew that this was a terrible injustice occuring and wanted to help. Hers was most certainly a motivation of love. Some of the children even called her their mother. Irena died at the age of 82, in 2008, at her home in Warsaw Poland.* She will always be remembered as the Moses of Poland during WWII, leading God’s chosen children to safety. Thank you Irena, you are truely a hero of the holocaust!