‘Righteous’ Irena Sendler’s story worth remembering

Yom HaShoah 2018 (The Day of Remembrance) has recently passed, but besides honoring those who died in the Holocaust, we should also remember those non-Jews who risked or lost their lives in order to protect Jews from the Nazi death machine.
Their lives and deeds of heroism are recorded at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and they are referred to as “the Righteous Among Us.”
According to Yad Vashem, Poland had more citizens helping to hide and save their Jewish citizens than any other nation, with an estimated minimum number of 6,706 rescuers.
Other sources claim that the total of Polish rescuers may have numbered as many as 1,200,000, most of whom received aid from the Polish underground organization known as Zegota.
One Polish Righteous woman whose story was unknown for many years was that of a social worker, Irena Sendlerowa (also known as Irena Sendler), who saved many children from the Warsaw Ghetto, all of whom had been destined to die in the Nazi death camps.
Her story and those of other Polish heroes were suppressed by the Polish communists after the war and did not come to light until the end of Communism in Poland in 1989.
Operating as a social worker in the Warsaw Ghetto, Sendler talked Jewish parents into giving her their children so that they could be secretly removed and placed with non-Jews or in convents.
She falsified records as best she could, but kept records of the original name, the false name and the names of the biological and the “new” parents, as well as location. These records were placed in a jar, which she then buried with the hope that the families could be reunited after the war.
In reality, the children survived, but the parents sent to the camps did not. Sendler successfully saved about 2,500 Jewish children.
Eventually captured, she was tortured and was scheduled to be executed, but the Zegota group raised enough money to bribe her captors for her release.
Irena Sendler’s heroic courage and achievement was not fully and properly recognized until the late 1990s.
A group of high school students in a small Kansas farm town were challenged by their innovative high school history teacher, Norm Conrad, whom students referred to as “Mr. C.”
It was 1999, and the upcoming National History Day observance was an opportunity for high school students around the country to compete for the winning project, the theme being “Turning Points in History.”
Mr. C placed brief news clippings in front of the students.
One of the news items given as a possible topic was a story about a Polish social worker praised by Yad Vashem who supposedly saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis: Irena Sendler.
The students could not believe that number since Schindler had saved 1,200. “It must have been 250, not 2,500,” Mr. C’s students thought.
The work of these four Kansas high school students under the guidance of their history teacher resulted in Life in a Jar, The Irena Sendler Project in play, book and film form.
Subsequently, the four student researchers flew to Poland to meet with Sendler after she finally received worldwide recognition as a result of the students’ efforts.
The awards she deserved for so long began to pour in. Tikkun Olam, Righteous Gentile, Honorary Citizen of Israel, Poland’s highest honor, the Order of the White Eagle, and her nomination for the 1963 Nobel Peace Prize by the Polish government.
Irena Sendler died in 2008 at age 98.
The book, Life In A Jar by Jack Mayer, is well worth reading.

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