The 20th of April Post

Have you ever heard of Irena Sendler? I hadn't until recently, when I read Andrew Hammel's post about her. Here's an excerpt:
Sendler (1910-2008) was a Polish Catholic social worker who, during the occupation of Poland, worked closely with the Żegota group, formed by exiled Poles to aid Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The group provided relief to Jews in ghettoes in labor camps and smuggled thousands of Jews to safety. Working with several dozen other Żegota volunteers, Sendler began smuggling Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. As an experienced non-Jewish social worker, Sendler had permission to travel freely into and out of the Ghetto to study and treat the constant typhus outbreaks there.

It soon became clear to her that everyone left in the ghetto was destined to either die of hunger or disease, or be shipped away in trains, never to return. The Jewish mothers in the ghetto knew this as well, which is why they tearfully entrusted their children to Sendler and her accomplices. Together, they smuggled the children out in empty streetcars at the end of their shift, ambulances, fire trucks, under grown mens' overcoats, through the cellars of buildings abutting the edge of the ghetto, in boxes, under blankets, in trucks, through sewage canals. Sendler's ingenuity knew no limits. The infants were given sedatives and put in tiny wooden boxes with unobtrusive breathing holes. Young children who could not stop crying after being separated from their mothers were smuggled out in a cleaning-supplies truck. The driver, who was part of the conspiracy, would step on his guard dog's paws just before the checkpoint, so that the dog's bellowing would mask the Jewish child's sobbing. Sendler kept track of the names of the rescued children by engraving them on spoons or placing lists of names in jars buried in a Warsaw garden. Altogether some 2,500 children were rescued. Every Pole who participated in these actions (and there were hundreds of them) risked execution.

After the children arrived on the 'Aryan' side, they were placed with individual families, or in orphanages or childrens' homes, usually run by the Catholic Church. They were given (and taught) new names and identities. Of course, all of the families and organizations who took the children in risked death, since that was the punishment for Poles who concealed Jews during the occupation. Sendler herself was denounced in 1943 by another member of the organization, who gave up her name under torture. Sendler was incarcerated in the Pawiak prison and tortured herself. She refused, however, to give up the names of fellow Żegota members or reveal the location of the lists of the rescued children. She was sentenced to death. Shortly before the sentence was to be carried out, the Żegota managed to bribe an SS guard with a large package of dollars, and he set Sendler free on the streets of Warsaw, claiming that she had been shot while trying to escape. According to Sendler, the bribe was later discovered, and the SS officers involved shot.

After recovering from her severe injuries, Sendler lived out the rest of the war in the underground, continuing to actively aid the resistance.
I hear Steven Spielberg's largely done with his Tintin project. Wink, wink.

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