Meet Irena Sendlerowa, someone most of us have not heard of and embodies the best the human race has to offer.
I receive a daily commentary from http://www.breakpoint.org. This particular one was titled Saving the Children, the story of Irena Sendler. In this commentary, they highlight how Irena saved an estimated 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazi extermination chambers.
Her rescues were nothing short of extraordinary. She used her papers as a Polish social worker and a courthouse near the newly constructed Warsaw ghetto as a primary method of rescuing Jewish children from the Nazi regime.
I’m going to quote a bit of the BreakPoint commentary released September 27th, 2016 as they say it better than I possibly could:
The most vulnerable and most dispossessed were Warsaw’s Jews. Four hundred thousand of them were crowded into a three-and-one-half square mile area. At great personal risk, Sendler found a way to enter the Ghetto, which was off-limits to non-Jewish Poles, to see how she could help relieve the appalling conditions.
As her biographer wrote “Irena knew she had to help the sick and starving Jews who were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. She began by smuggling food, clothing, and medicine into the ghetto.”
But in the fall of 1942, half of the Ghetto’s inhabitants were deported to the Treblinka death camp, where they were immediately gassed upon arrival.
This barbarity led Sendler and her co-conspirators to declare war on Hitler and to redouble their efforts. Working in concert with Catholic orphanages, especially the Family of Mary orphanage in Warsaw, Sendler, code-named “Jolanta,” and her co-conspirators helped smuggle out an estimated 2,500 Jewish children by whatever means possible: hiding them in coffins, potato sacks, even in a tool box.
Not surprisingly, this kind of resistance to evil eventually caught the attention of the evil-doers. In October, 1943, Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo. Though brutally tortured, she refused to betray her network or give up the names and locations of the children she smuggled out of the Ghetto. After being sentenced to death, she managed to escape with the help of well-placed bribes.
You would think that such a Polish patriot would have been honored after the fall of the Third Reich, but you’d be wrong. The Communist government imprisoned and tortured Sendler after the war because her brand of resistance—Catholic and non-communist—was the “wrong” kind of resistance.
Even after Israel bestowed the title “Righteous Among the Nations” on Sendler, the communist government refused to recognize her heroism. It even refused to allow Sendler to travel to Tel Aviv to receive her award and see the tree planted in her name along the Avenue of the Righteous.
Not much was known about Sendler’s story here in the US until the late 1990s, when Kansas high schoolers researched her life and wrote a play about her called “Life in a Jar,” which was later adapted into a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV special.
Now based on what we know about Sendler, the lack of notoriety probably didn’t bother her. As she told the Polish Senate shortly before her death, “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.”
Likewise, until her death in 2008, she rejected the title “hero” and said she was haunted by her failure to do more.
But of course she was a hero, a Christian whose courage should serve as an inspiration to us all and a reminder that the most ordinary of people can make an extraordinary difference.
I stand in awe of such bravery. The unselfish compassion under penalty of torture and death moves me to tears. In this selfish world we live it, Irena is a bright light. I don’t know about you, but I need every opportunity possible to point me in the direction of the greatest commandment.
Want to learn more about this remarkable woman of God? Go to www.irenasendler.org to find out information about her life, her parents, the play that is now being performed about her life, and other touching details.