History's HEROES? 1910 - 2008

Irena Sendlerowa

Who was she?

Things you may not know about Irena Sendlerowa

Irena Sendlerowa grew up in a patriotic family. More
She had great respect for all people, regardless of race, religion and creed. More
She grew up with close links to the Jewish community. More
At university, Irena sat with her Jewish friends and nearly got expelled. More
She was born Irena Krzyzanowska and married twice. More
Even before the ghetto was formed, Irena and others began to assist the Jewish Community. More
Irena was able to get into the Ghetto by using the typhoid outbreak as a cover. More
While inside the Ghetto, Irena wore a Star of David band on her arm. More
Irena and her helpers smuggled children out of the Ghetto in many ingenious ways. More
She had to deal with many terrible dilemas. More
No one ever refused to take a child from Irena. More
After the children's names were nearly discovered, Irena buried the information in jars in a garden. More
Despite ripping apart her room, the Gestapo failed to find the most incriminating information. More
Irena read a poster about her own supposed execution. More
Irena had to go into hiding just like the children she rescued. More
Almost none of the children could be reunited with their parents. More
Irena had to wait a long time to collect an award given to her by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. More
She was largely forgotten until the year 2000. More

Irena Sendlerowa in brief

Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this earth, and not a title to glory.

Irena Sendlerowa was an extraordinarily brave woman who helped rescue over 2,500 Jewish children, many from the Warsaw Ghetto, during the Holocaust of World War 2.

From the outbreak of the war, Irena risked her life by giving food and shelter to Jewish people. At the time of the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto, she was working for the city's health and care department as a nurse and social worker. Irena organised and directed a children's rescue group amongst her colleagues, to smuggle Jewish children from the Ghetto.

The task was momentous. Behind the high walls enclosing the Ghetto, the people were packed together in appalling conditions. They smuggled out the children in many ingenious ways  (in tool boxes, in coffins, through churches and cellars) and arranged for them to be taken to emergency safe houses.

Eventually Irena Senlerowa was arrested and interrogated. During her interrogation, they broke her legs and feet but she refused to reveal any names. On the way to her execution she escaped, with the help of friends, and went into hiding. After the war she returned to an ordinary life. She wanted no acclaim: "I continue", she said, "to have pangs of conscience that I did so little."

Irena Sendlerowa Picture Gallery

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