Irena Sendlerowa: A True Holocaust Hero

May 22, 2010
Irena Sendlerowa was born in Warsaw, but grew up in Otwock, Poland. She was born on February 15, 1910, while her name day was October 20th. Irena was Roman Catholic. Irena’s grandfather led a rebellion against the Czars. Irena’s father was a doctor. He died of the Typhus epidemic of 1917 when he came in contact with the disease after caring for poor Jewish people in Otwock. Irena was a single child. When she grew up she had one son and one daughter. Her daughter, Janka, still lives in Warsaw, Poland, while her son Adam passed away on September 23rd, 1999. Adam has a daughter named Agniesa. Irena studied at Warsaw University. In 1942 Irena was put in charge of the children Zegota (a polish underground to assist Jewish people).

This may sound odd but before Irena smuggled orphans out of the ghettos she smuggled them INTO the ghetto. The Germans had arrested begging children in Aryan Warsaw and Irena realized that some of them were Jewish boys who could be discovered by the “pull down your pants” test to look for circumcised boys. She snuck them into the ghetto through a hole in the wall. She handed them off to famous pediatrician, Janus Korczak, who took them into his orphanage and hid them.

As early as 1939, when the Germans invaded Warsaw, Irena began helping Jews by offering them food and shelter. Irena used her papers as a Polish Social Worker and her papers from one of the workers of the Contagious Disease Department (who was a member of the Zegota) to enter the Warsaw Ghetto. Irena used a codename while rescuing the Jewish, it was Jolanta. Irena, along with her underground network, rescued 2,500 Jewish children in Poland during WWII. Many of this number were already outside ghetto and in hiding. Irena and ten others went into the ghetto.
They used many, many different methods to smuggle the children out. They used 5 main ways, 1) using an ambulance; the child could be hidden under the stretcher during the escape, 2) escape through the courthouse on the corner of the ghetto, 3)a child being taken out through sewer pipes or other secret underground passages, 4) a trolley could carry out children hiding in a sack, in a trunk, a suitcase, or something similar, and 5)if a child could pretend to be sick or was actually very ill, it could be legally removed using the ambulance. There are rumors of Irena using a dog whom she trained to bark when they drove by the guards so they would just wave them on. The guards didn’t want to have to deal with the dog and it covered up the sounds of the crying babies, but she actually only used the dog on occasion, but very few times out of the many rescues.
Irena also used the church next to the ghetto. The entrance leading to it was “sealed” by the Germans, but if a child could speak good polish and recite some Christian prayers they could be smuggled through the “sealed” entrance and later taken to the Aryan side. This was a very dangerous task because the Germans often used a rouse to trick the poles then arrest Jolanta/Irena documented on the strips of paper she had buried as well as where the child was taken in the first phase of its escape.
Irena made fake papers and identities for the children. After she smuggled them out she sent them to orphanages, convents, and families. Irena wrote down all of the names of the children she rescued, where she sent them and their new names so after the war she could reunite them with their families if the families survived. Sadly most of the parents of the children Irena rescued died at Treblinka death camp.
Irena/Jolanta was arrested on October 20, 1943. When arrested she felt almost liberated. She was placed in the notorious Piawiak prison, where she was tortured and questioned constantly. During the questioning she had her legs and feet fractured. The German who interrogated her was young, very stylish, and spoke perfect polish. He wanted the names of the other Zegota leaders and their addresses, and the names of others involved. Irena fed him the version that she and her collaborators had prepared in the event they were captured. The German held up a folder with information of places, times and persons who had informed her. She received a death sentence of being shot. Unbeknown to her the Zegota had bribed the German executioner who helped her escape. On the following day the Germans loudly proclaimed her execution. Posters were put up all over with news that Irena had been shot. Irena read the posters herself.
During the remaining years of the war, Irena lived in hiding, just like the children she rescued. Irena was the only one who knew where the children were to be found. When the war was finally over she dug up the bottle that contained all of the information on all the kids and began finding the children and tried to find a living parent.
Irena was announced the 2003 winner of the Jan Karski award for Valor and Courage. The announcement was made July 24, 2003 and the award ceremony was held October 23, 2003 in Washington D.C. She was nominated by the ‘Life in a Jar’ students and teachers, and Stephanie Seltzer, president of the World Federation of Jewish Survivors of the Holocaust.
The ‘Life in a Jar’ is a play that four college students wrote that started out as a National History Day project in September 1999. The four students started looking up information about Irena Sendler. Their teacher, Mr. Conrad, had given them a clipping he had found from a 1994 issue of U.S. News and World Report. The mention of Irena was in a story called “Other Schindlers.” Only one website mentioned Irena, it wasn’t until the students visited Poland in 2001 that Irena’s story became known to the world. At last there were over 80,000 web sites on the internet mentioning Irena. The students of the ’Life in a Jar’ project have gathered 4,000 pages of primary information and research on Irena and her life, and the work of the Zegota.
Irena had been known for standing up for the Jewish. When Irena was 13 she got in trouble for fist fighting two bullying girls to defend her Jewish classmate. Irena was dismissed from Warsaw University for failing to comply with the Jewish segregation laws.
Irena Sendlerowa was nominated in 2007 for the Nobel Peace Prize, she lost. Al gore won for his slideshow on global warming.
Irena passed away on May 12, 2008, she was 98 years old. Irena will never be forgotten. She was an AMAZING lady who risked her life to save others. She was a true Holocaust Hero!

"". Life in a Jar. 5-2-10 <>.
"". Life in a Jar. 5-07-10 <>.
"". PRIO. 5-07-10 <>.

Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

WritingFreak11 said...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 11:37 am
WOW that is one amazing lady!!
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback