The Polish Angel

September 10, 2022
Children in the Ghetto
Children in the Ghetto

A must-read story in a day of rising antisemitism.

We are seeing in these times an alarming rise of antisemitism and unfortunately many Christians by their indifference and silence, are complicit in this most ancient of hatreds. Christian heroes like Irena Sendler stir us to rise above our self-serving mediocracy.

Irena Sendler
Irena Sendler

Irena as a young girl was greatly influenced by her father Stanislaw who was a compassionate Physician with many of his patients being poor Jews. One of his mottos was when you see someone who is drowning, reach out your hand to save them. Her father died from typhus contracted while treating patients whom his colleagues refused to treat for fear of contracting the disease, and among them many Jews. Irena with her father’s strong sense of social justice became a social worker, with the under privileged in Warsaw. Irena an opponent of the Nazi regime became a member of the Polish Zegota movement, and becoming alarmed with Hitler’s treatment of the Jews in Poland she got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto along with several other women in the Zegota movement that shared her desire. They used a variety of ruses to help Jews, especially orphaned children escape the Nazis. The Ghetto housed close to a half a million Jews cramming in over nine Jews per room. One of Irena’s ploys was rather unique, she managed to be employed as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. 

Sadly, almost all the parents of the children Irena saved, had died at the Treblinka death camp.

Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried, which was no small task for a woman. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck for larger kids. To cover the noise of a crying child she had a dog with her that she had trained to bark when soldiers were around.

During the war, she managed to smuggle out and save around 2,500 children.

Irena Sendler
Irena Sendler receiving certificate for ‘Most Distinguished Social Worker’

Unfortunately, the Nazis suspected her and in October 1943 she was ultimately caught by the Gestapo, tortured and sentenced to death. She was to be shot but unbeknown to her, Zegota had bribed the German executioner who helped her escape on the scheduled day of her execution. On the following day the Germans loudly proclaimed her execution. Posters were put up all over the city with the news that she was shot. Irena read the posters herself.

Irena kept a hidden record of the names of all the children she had smuggled out and after the war, tried to reunite the children with their families. Sadly, almost all the parents of the children Irena saved, had died at the Treblinka death camp. So, she devoted her time to find families that would look after them.

In 1965, she was recognised by the State of Israel as “Righteous Among the Nations”. Among the many decorations Sendler received, were the Gold Cross of Merit granted her in 1946 for the saving of Jews and the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest honour, awarded late in Sendler’s life for her wartime humanitarian efforts.

She passed at the age of 98 in May 2008.

Forget about the Paris Hiltons and hedonistic sporting stars, we need to have heroes before us like Irena Sendler.



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