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Irena Sendler. Unknown hero of WW2.

Updated on November 30, 2012
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I know there are some other hubs telling about this person but I could not stand against a temptation to write about this extraordinary woman - Irena Sendler (Sendlerova). Believe it or not but she was absolutely unknown in the Soviet Union despite the fact that she saved thousands of Jews from the Ghetto in Warsaw. Politics and ideology made Irena Sendler unknown for many and many years. Nowadays a recognition came to her. Her work and her attempts so save others are a great lesson of humanity to all mankind. Look on the face of this woman and try to remember her. She was a real hero!

Occupation of Warsaw

Warsaw was occupied by Nazi troops in 1939. Irena Sendler worked in a social department of the city council. She was 29. She used her position to help Jewish people in Warsaw with money and food. Irena also contacted Polish resistance and was hiding Jewish people with the help of other people.

In autumn 1940 Nazi collected all Jews in one ghetto, made a wall around it and thus cut this place from the rest of the world. Nazi explained the necessity of building the ghetto because “Jewish people are spreading infections”. Their isolation was supposed to defend the other population of the city from typhus. The territory of a ghetto was in a part of a city with a high concentration of a Jewish population. All other inhabitants were forcibly removed from this place and instead of them 138000 Jewish were settled.

If anyone tried to leave ghetto he could be sentenced to 9 months in prison. Later it was changed to the capital punishment.

Source
Source
People from Warsaw Ghetto are sent to Treblinka
People from Warsaw Ghetto are sent to Treblinka | Source

 Polish resistance

Irena Sendler was one of those few people who could visit this ghetto legally as an employee of the city sanitary department. German soldiers were afraid of typhus outbursts in the ghetto but at the same time did not want to cure Jews themselves. She brought to ghetto food, medicines and money. But the main reason of her coming there was an attempt to save children.

In 1942 Nazi started a mass removal of Jewish people to the death camps. Poles created a secret organization helping Jewish people- Zegota. Irena was also a member of Zegota and was responsible for children from the ghetto.

Irena and her colleagues visited ghetto several times a day and secretly took children out of there. First she took orphans, and then she convinced parents to let children go with her. None knew what is waiting for them, but there were some rumors that Jews may be killed by Nazists. Irena was probably better aware of fact that Nazists were going to send Jewish people to gas chambers.

Ways to save children

There were several ways to move children out of the ghetto: under stretches of an ambulance, using the old building of a court in the border of a ghetto, via sewage system. Infants were narcotized and hidden in bags, sacks or boxes, some children were pretending to be ill.

Irena Sendler had a dog which was trained to bark loudly when she approached the gate of the ghetto if the child started to cry.

Saved children were hidden in polish families, in the orphan asylums and in monasteries. They were given new papers, new names and new families. Yet Sendler believed in a future and believed in a possibility of re-union of these kids with their parents. So she encrypted the names of children, wrote them on strips of paper and put these strips in a glass jar which was hidden in a garden of her friend.

It is known that Irena saved 2500 (!) children. It is also known that most of them survived the war but most of their parents were killed by Nazists.

In 1943 Irena was caught by the Gestapo and put into a prison. During interrogations both her legs and arms were broken, but she gave no name. She also did not tell how to find children and did not say she had all their names written on paper strips. She was sentenced to death but in a day of execution her comrades in a Zegota bribed the guard and Irena was saved. The Gestapo was sure she is executed, but actually she was hiding from Nazi till the end of war.

After the war she took the jars out and found her children. Many of them had no idea that they were saved and did not know that their current parents are in not biological ones. Alas their parents were mostly killed and just some of them found relatives. Later most of the children were sent to Palestine and Israel.


Recognition

Soviet Poland treated Irena Sendler somewhat specifically. For a co-operation with Army Krajova and an alternative polish government she was arrested by soviet Poland authorities. They say that after the prison she lived around 20 years in a monastery. In 1965 the Israel memorial Yad Vashem declared her a Righteous Woman of the World. In 1983 this recognition was confirmed by a supreme court of Israel. This year she was also allowed to go abroad and to visit Israel.

In 2003 the Pope John Paul II addressed Irena Sendler a letter of gratitude and the Polish government awarded her an Order of a White Eagle. In 2007 she was among people nominated to the Nobel Prize award.

Irena did not like a pompous performance around her name. She still lived in a small room in Warsaw. Her only visitors were those children whose lives she saved.

She died in Warsaw on the 12th of May 2008 at the age of 98. They say she was sorry for she did not do enough for saving more people...

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    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      to midget38 and Jackie Lynnley: thank you so much for a comment !

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      A beautiful story I knew nothing about. Thank you for it. Her reward will be soon I am sure, and judgement for all those who did these terrible things. Up and sharing.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      A wonderful tribute to a great, brave woman. Shared, voted up!

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Dear Daisy, thank you for your comment. Both my grandfathers were fighting during WW2, but luckily both retured home wounded but alive. But this is a rare case. Most families lost someone during fights and in camps. I think those who managed just to survive were heroes.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Pavlo,

      Thank you for telling the important story of Irena Sendler. I knew about her, but I learned some new things from reading your article.

      One of my cousins married a man who had lost everyone in Poland except an aunt and uncle and a family friend. My cousin's husband was liberated from Auschwitz.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      to mours sshields and expertscolumn : You are right! She was an incredible person!

    • expertscolumn profile image

      Stanley Soman 4 years ago from New York

      Just a wonderful story. God bless people like her. She was a member of the greatest generation, after World War II. Smart, brave, and decent.

    • profile image

      mours sshields 4 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

      Great woman! Truly a hero!

      Marcia Ours

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

    • Beth Pipe profile image

      Beth Pipe 4 years ago from Cumbria, UK

      The word hero is used too easily these days - but this woman truly was. Thanks for sharing.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      I like your comments. They are always good and as interesting as the hub might be.

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 4 years ago from American Southwest

      I did not know of her. I only recently learned of Nicholas Winton, who similarly saved 600+ Czech Jewish children before the war. I learned about him through one of the children he saved, now of course an elderly man. But that man's children have been a great help to my children. I can only imagine the effect now on the world of 2500 children saved!

      One thing that tears at the heart in both cases is how scared of future events the parents had to have been to entrust their children to a stranger.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      to xstatic: This story shocked me too when I read about I.Sendler. She was indeed a brave and courageous person!

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      A wonderful story of a woman so brave in the face of inhumanity. Well done.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      I am glad you liked it. Thanks!

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      I have never heard of Irena Sendler, but you did well to bring this up. It is a shame that we forget such heroes who went extra miles to bring dignity and peace. Voted up

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Thank you for very good words! Glad to see you again!

    • MargaritaEden profile image

      MargaritaEden 5 years ago from Oregon

      Wow what an amazing woman she was, to my shame I have to admit I have never heard of her until I have read your hub. This is a wonderful hub and tribute to this woman Pavlo, thank you for writing it, she was sure a God's sent angel for those children she saved.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Yes , you are right. She was a uniq and a courages person. Glad you liked the hub!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Irena Sendler's story cannot be repeated often enough. Her work should be held in such high esteem that her bravery in doing right is never forgotten.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      to Gypsy Rose Lee: Thank you for a comment! Glad it touched your feelings too!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting. Wonderful story and great tribute to this amazing woman. Thanks for sharing and passing this on.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Thank you Rusticliving! I am glad you like it! She did what her heart told her to do. A very brave heart...

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Very profound hub on this incredible woman. I have never heard of her until now. Thank you for enlightening us with this knowledge. Thumbs up. Lisa

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
      Author

      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      You know what, the Nobel prize that year was awarded to ex vice president of the USA Albert Gore for a slide show devoted to climate changing...

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      She never got the credit she should have got. Would we all be as brave as she was? She should have been the one to get the Nobel Prize. Voted up on your hub.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Wow, what a courageous lady! I'd never heard of her, even though my degree is in modern European history. Thanks for putting this together.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Thank you Theresa. I was deeply touched by her attempts to stand against such a huge military machine as a Nazi Germany.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hello Pavlo - She was an amazing woman who deserves to be remembered and honored. Thank you for taking the time to compose a hub about her. A very important topic and very well done. Sharing.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
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      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      to travmaj : I thought I am the only ignorant :) Now feel better:) In fact thank you for reading. I know that there was a film devoted to her and several theatrical performances were done. I believe it is called " The life in a Jar". A little bit pathetic, but true...

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image
      Author

      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Typhus was just an excuse. If it was not typhus , they would find smth else. I remember your hub about doctors. In both cases typhus helped to save lives. Weird but true...Thanks for a comment!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for writing this, Pavlo. I had never heard of Irena and now you have enlightened one more reader to her brave and selfless deeds. I see typhus was used by the Germans as an excuse for bricking them all up in the ghetto. Very interesting. Leave it to the Nazis to blacken a terrible disease even more.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 5 years ago from australia

      Hi Pavlo, I'm so impressed with this. Ashamed I didn't know about Irena. What a wonderful, brave, courageous lady, a heroine indeed. Thank you for bringing her to my attention - thank you for fitting tribute to a wonderful lady