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Irena SendlerIrena Sendler (also called Irena Sendlerowa in Polish
WWII resistance activities
She cooperated with the Children's Section of the Municipal
Arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo, she was severely tortured and
On 10 October 2003, Irena Sendler received the Order of the White
On 14 March 2007, Sendler was honoured by Poland's senate. Polish
The "Life in a Jar" project
from Lili Haber <email@example.com>
During the World War II German occupation of Poland, Sendler lived in Warsaw (before that she lived in Tarczyn) while working for the city's Social Welfare Department. She started helping Jews a long time before the Warsaw Ghetto was established. Helping Jews was very risky — in German-occupied Poland, all household members were punished by death if a hidden Jew was found in their house. This was the most severe punishment compared to those applied in other occupied European countries.
In December 1942, the newly created Children's Section of the ?egota Council for Assistance to the Jews, a council to aid Jews, nominated her (under her cover name Jolanta) to head its children's department. As an employee of the Social Welfare Department, she had a special permit to enter the Warsaw Ghetto, to check for signs of typhus, something the Nazis feared would spread beyond the ghetto. During the visits, she wore a Star of David as a sign of solidarity with the Jewish people and so as not to call attention to herself.
She cooperated with the Children's Section of the Municipal Administration, linked with the RGO (Central Welfare Council), a Polish Relief Organization tolerated under German supervision. She organized the smuggling of Jewish children from the Ghetto, carrying them out in boxes, suitcases and trolleys. The children were placed with Polish families, the Warsaw orphanage of the Sisters of the Family of Mary or Roman Catholic convents such as the Sisters Little Servants of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mary at Turkowice and Chotomów. Some were smuggled to priests in parish rectories where they could be further hidden. She kept lists of the names, hidden in jars, in order to keep track of their original and new identities.
Arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo, she was severely tortured and sentenced to death. The ?egota saved her by bribing the German guards on the way to her execution. She was left in woods, unconcious and with broken arms and limbs. Officially, she was listed on public bulletin boards as among those executed. Even in hiding, she continued her work for the Jewish children.
In 1965, she was recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations, which was confirmed in 1983 by the Israeli Supreme Court. She also was awarded the Commanders Cross by the Israeli Institute.
In 2003, Pope John Paul II sent a personal letter to Sendler, praising her altruistic wartime efforts.
On 10 October 2003, Irena Sendler received the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest civilian decoration. Sendler was also awarded the Jan Karski Award "For Courage and Heart", which is given by the American Center of Polish Culture in Washington.
On 14 March 2007, Sendler was honoured by Poland's Senate. Polish President Lech Kaczynski stated that she "can be justly named for the Nobel Peace Prize" (nominations are supposed to be kept secret, though). At age 97, she was unable to leave her nursing home to receive the honour, but she sent a statement through Elzbieta Ficowska, whom Sendler saved as a baby.
Sendler was the last survivor from the Children's Section of the ?egota Council for Assistance to the Jews, which she headed from January 1943 until the end of World War II.
Sendler was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, but lost out to Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States.
Life in a Jar
In 1999, Norm Conard, a high school teacher from Pittsburg, Kansas, encouraged four students at the Uniontown, Kansas, school where he taught to investigate the life of Irena Sendler.
Based on their findings, the students created a play, Life in a Jar (after her hiding place for documents), which re-enacted Sendler's heroic acts. As of March 2008, there had been over 240 performances: first in Kansas, then all around the United States, in Canada, and finally in Europe.
In 2006, in Kansas, March 10 was declared Irena Sendler Day.