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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Irena Sendler’

In Memory of Irena Sendler

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Years ago, I first heard the story of Irena Sendler. In the dark world of World War II, she was a tiny light shining brightly; a reminder that there are good people, even in the ugliest of situations. Today is the 8th day of the Hebrew month of Av. We start our days with the setting of each sun – our 24 hours does not stretch from midnight to midnight, but from sundown to sundown and so tonight begins the 9th day of Av. It is, by any calculation, the saddest day on the Jewish calender. What we lost, what was done to us on this day – throughout the thousands of years we have wandered, cannot be measured, nor can our grief.

Tonight we will sit on the floors or our synagogues, our homes, on hilltops and community centers. This is a sign of mourning as we listen to the book of Eicha – Lamentations, as it is quietly read – here in Israel, in our neighborhood, our city, our country, and also around our world. It won’t rain here in Israel; but the heavens will cry with us. And we will wait for some bit of light to come back into our world, some sign that better times are coming.

It seems particularly appropriate to post this guest blog post about Irena Sendler – a reminder that in the darkest of times, a small light of humanity and hope brings forth the greatest hopes.

Tomorrow, wherever you are – please remember that only in the darkest of places, can we see the smallest of lights more clearly. They are a sign, if we have the faith to grasp it. May God bless the memory of Irena Sendler and may she always look down upon Israel, knowing that there are many who live today because of “her” children.

In Memory of Irena Sendler

The recent 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising focused the world’s attention, if only for a few moments, on the unspeakable horror that befell European Jewry just a generation ago. Ceremonies were held and speeches were made but when all is said and done, if our present generation doesn’t take necessary action to ensure that the events of World War II are remembered, the world will blithely and conveniently forget.

Just how easy it is to forget was emphasized by the recent research of a group of Kansas City schoolgirls who reignited interest in a story that had almost been swept into the dustbin of history. In 1999, while researching the Holocaust, the girls heard snippets of a story about a “female Oskar Schindler” who saved over 3000 Jews in Nazi Poland. The girls followed up on the story and due to their interest the amazing tale of Irena Sendler has been commemorated in a project that includes a book, a website and a performance.

Irena Sendler was a Polish social worker in 1939. When the Nazis invaded Poland she joined the Zagota underground and assisted Jews who were trying to escape from the Nazi dragnet. Together with her Zagota comrades she forged identity documents and helped the escaping Jews locate safe hiding places.

In 1941 the Nazis established the Warsaw ghetto and gathered almost half a million Jews into the small ghetto walls. Sendler obtained documents that identified her as a nurse who specialized in infectious diseases and she began to enter the ghetto to bring in foods and medicines.  Sendler quickly realized that the Nazis intended to murder all of the Jews in the ghetto and she developed strategies to move children to the “safe” part of Poland. She started by transferring orphans that she found on the streets but soon started to knock on doors in an attempt to convince Jewish parents to allow her to relocate their children.

When interviewed about her activities 60 years after the events, Sendler admitted that the memories of those conversations still gave her nightmares. “Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn’t give me the child. Their first question was, ‘What guarantee is there that the child will live?’ I said, ‘None. I don’t even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today.”

Irena Sendler, We Honor You

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

During World War II, Irena, a Polish Christian woman, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive. Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids.

Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2,500 kids/infants. Read that number again – 2,500 lives…Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi’s broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, In a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming. Today, we honor her courage, her bravery. She has been recognized as a Righteous Gentile in Yad Vashem.

May God bless her memory.Please share this to honor the sacrifice and courage of this fine human being who gave so much and saved so many.  See also www.irenasendler.org.
Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Irena Sendler, 1910-2008

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

         Last week Irena Sendler, a true heroine, passed away. Having grown up in prewar Poland she showed true compassion to her fellow human beings, and put herself at great risk to save the most innocent of the German victims of the Shoah, the children of the Warsaw Ghetto.

 

         Last year I had the honor to meet with Ms. Sendler at her nursing home and in her memory I am reprinting the column I wrote after that encounter.

 

         When people hear of those honored as Righteous Among The Nations by Yad Vashem, they automatically think of the most renowned, such as Oscar Schindler or Raul Wallenberg. When asked to name the most anti-Semitic country they usually say Poland and can’t name anyone from Poland honored by Yad Vashem. In fact, of the thousands of diplomats that served in German-occupied countries, there are only 29 that were considered Righteous by Yad Vashem.

 

         The Poles, on the other hand, were under the threat of death if the Germans caught them helping Jews and yet there are more Poles listed as Righteous then all other countries combined. One of the reasons for this lapse of memory is because the Germans put most of the concentration camps in Poland. Another reason is that after the Shoah Poland was under communist rule and there were pogroms in 1946 and expulsions in 1968.

 

         During my recent visit to Poland, I had the opportunity to meet one of the truly great people honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations, Irena Sendler.

 

 



Shmuel Ben Eliezer presenting a plaque from Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin to Irena Sendler in gratitude for saving 2,500 children during the Holocaust.  


 

 

         The story of Irena Sendler is not well-known as she shies away from publicity, but recently as she grows more and more frail, people are making their way to her home to pay homage for the tremendous bravery she showed during the worst times during the Shoah.

 

         At the time of the German invasion, Irena was a senior administrator in the Warsaw Social Welfare Department, which operated the canteens in every district of the city. Previously, the canteens provided meals, financial aid, and other services for orphans, the elderly, and the destitute. Now, through Irena, the canteens also provided clothing, medicine and money for the Jews. They were registered under fictitious Christian names, and to prevent inspections, the Jewish families were reported as being afflicted with highly infectious diseases like typhus and tuberculosis.

 

         In 1942, the Nazis herded hundreds-of-thousands of Jews into a 16-block area that came to be known as the Warsaw Ghetto. Irena Sendler was so appalled by the conditions that she joined Zegota, the Council for Aid to Jews, organized by the Polish underground resistance movement, as one of its first recruits and directed the efforts to rescue Jewish children.

 

         To be able to enter the Ghetto legally, Irena managed to be issued a pass from Warsaw’s Epidemic Control Department and she visited the Ghetto daily. She re-established contacts and brought food, medicines and clothing. But 5,000 people a month were dying from starvation and disease in the Ghetto, and she decided to help the Jewish children get out.

 

         Irena Sendler began smuggling children out in an ambulance. She recruited at least one person from each of the 10 centers of the Social Welfare Department. With their help, she issued hundreds of false documents with forged signatures. Irena Sendler successfully smuggled almost 2,500 Jewish children to safety and gave them temporary new identities.

 

         Some children were taken out in gunnysacks or body bags. Some were buried inside loads of goods. A mechanic took a baby out in his toolbox. Some kids were carried out in potato sacks and others were placed in coffins. The children were then given false identities and placed in homes, orphanages and convents.

 

         Irena Sendler carefully noted, in coded form, the children’s original names and their new identities. She kept the only record of their true identities in jars buried beneath an apple tree in a neighbor’s back yard, across the street from German barracks, hoping she would someday dig up the jars, locate the children and inform them of their past.

 

         In all, the jars contained the names of 2,500 children.

 

         After the war she dug up the jars and used the notes to track down the 2,500 children she had placed with adoptive families and reunite them with relatives scattered across Europe. But most lost their families during the Holocaust. The children had known her only by her code name “Jolanta.” But years later, after she was honored for her wartime work, her picture appeared in a newspaper. “A man, a painter, telephoned me,” said Sendler. ‘I remember your face,’ he said. ‘It was you who took me out of the ghetto.’ I had many calls like that!”

 

         During my visit with Irena, I presented her with a plaque from the Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, whose rededication I had just attended. I told her that it was her love of children that gave her the strength and courage to save the children, and it was love of children that gave the famous Rabbi Shapiro the foresight to build the yeshiva. I told her that had not the Holocaust occurred many of the children she rescued possibly would have attended the Yeshiva.

 

         She smiled and her eyes glittered, recalling the children and thinking of them in Lublin, a place that hopefully will once again be a place of Torah learning for Jews of all ages.   

Irena Sendler

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

      When people hear of those honored as Righteous Among The Nations by Yad Vashem, they automatically think of the most renowned, such as Oscar Schindler or Raul Wallenberg. When asked to name the most anti-Semitic country they usually say Poland and can’t name anyone from Poland honored by Yad Vashem. In fact, of the thousands of diplomats that served in German-occupied countries, there are only 29 that were considered righteous by Yad Vashem.

 

      The Poles on the other hand were under the threat of death if they were caught by the Germans helping Jews and yet there are more Poles listed as Righteous then all other countries combined. One of the reasons for this lapse of memory is because the Germans put most of the concentration camps in Poland. Another reason is that after the Shoah, Poland was under communist rule and there were pogroms in 1946 and expulsions in 1968.

 

      During my recent visit to Poland, I had the opportunity to meet one of the truly great people honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations, Irena Sendler.

 

      The story of Irena Sendler is not well known as she shies away from publicity, but recently as she grows more and more frail, people are making their way to her home to pay homage for the tremendous bravery she showed during the worst times during the Shoah.

 

      At the time of the German invasion, Irena was a senior administrator in the Warsaw Social Welfare Department, which operated the canteens in every district of the city. Previously, the canteens provided meals, financial aid, and other services for orphans, the elderly, and the destitute. Now, through Irena, the canteens also provided clothing, medicine and money for the Jews. They were registered under fictitious Christian names, and to prevent inspections, the Jewish families were reported as being afflicted with highly infectious diseases like typhus and tuberculosis.

 

 



Shmuel Ben Eliezer presenting Irena Sendler with a plaque from Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in gratitude for saving 2,500 Jewish children during the Holocaust.


 


 

      When in 1942, the Nazis herded hundreds-of-thousands of Jews into a 16-block area that came to be known as the Warsaw Ghetto. Irena Sendler was so appalled by the conditions that she joined Zegota, the Council for Aid to Jews, organized by the Polish underground resistance movement, as one of its first recruits and directed the efforts to rescue Jewish children.

 

      To be able to enter the Ghetto legally, Irena managed to be issued a pass from Warsaw’s Epidemic Control Department and she visited the Ghetto daily. She reestablished contacts and brought food, medicines and clothing. But 5,000 people a month were dying from starvation and disease in the Ghetto, and she decided to help the Jewish children get out.

 

      Irena Sendler began smuggling children out in an ambulance. She recruited at least one person from each of the ten centers of the Social Welfare Department. With their help, she issued hundreds of false documents with forged signatures. Irena Sendler successfully smuggled almost 2,500 Jewish children to safety and gave them temporary new identities.

 

      Some children were taken out in gunnysacks or body bags. Some were buried inside loads of goods. A mechanic took a baby out in his toolbox. Some kids were carried out in potato sacks and others were placed in coffins. The children were then given false identities and placed in homes, orphanages and convents.

 

      Irena Sendler carefully noted, in coded form, the children’s original names and their new identities. She kept the only record of their true identities in jars buried beneath an apple tree in a neighbor’s back yard, across the street from German barracks, hoping she would someday dig up the jars, locate the children and inform them of their past.

 

      In all, the jars contained the names of 2,500 children…

 

      After the war she dug up the jars and used the notes to track down the 2,500 children she had placed with adoptive families and to reunite them with relatives scattered across Europe. But most lost their families during the Holocaust. The children had known her only by her code name “Jolanta.” But years later, after she was honored for her wartime work, her picture appeared in a newspaper. “A man, a painter, telephoned me,” said Sendler. ‘I remember your face,’ he said. `It was you who took me out of the ghetto.’ I had many calls like that!”

 

      During my visit with Irena, I presented her with a plaque from the Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, whose rededication I had just attended. I told her that it was her love of children that gave her the strength and courage to save the children, and it was love of children that gave the famous Rabbi Shapiro the foresight to build the yeshiva. I told her that had not the Holocaust occurred many of the children she rescued possibly would have attended the Yeshiva.

 

      She smiled and her eyes glittered, recalling the children and thinking of them in Lublin, a place that hopefully will once again be a place of Torah learning for Jews of all ages.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/irena-sendler/2007/03/07/

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