Saturday, February 03, 2007

She Saved More Jews Than Schindler

From the New York Sun, Nobel Prize Is Sought for Polish Heroine (Excerpts from a lengthy article.) By ALEX STOROZYNSKI
A class project by four high-school girls from Kansas has spurred a
grassroots movement to nominate for a Nobel Peace Prize a woman who
rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis - a move endorsed last week
by the deputy prime minister of Israel, Shimon Peres.

A Polish social worker, Irena Sendler, who turns 97 next month,
smuggled children out of the Warsaw ghetto and refused to disclose their
whereabouts even after being tortured. Gestapo officers crunched her
legs in a vice and smashed her bones with hammers.

Mrs. Sendler stashed the identities of the children she saved in jars
and buried the jars under an apple tree. Her plan was to dig up the jars
after the war and reunite the children with their families....

...Mrs. Sendler's story was buried when the Soviet Union imposed communism
on Poland. And even though Mrs. Sendler was honored in 1965 by Yad
Vashem as one of the righteous who saved Jews, it took four Protestant
girls from Pittsburg, Kan., to teach Catholic Poland about the story.

In 1999, three Union High School ninth-graders, Megan Stewart,
Elizabeth Cambers, and Jessica Shelton, and an eleventh-grader, Sabrina
Coons, entered a history project after their teacher Norm Conard showed
them an article about "Schindler's List," which mentioned others who
rescued Jews from the Nazis. Surprised that Mrs. Sendler saved twice as
many people as Schindler, the girls researched her life and wrote a play
called "Life in a Jar."...

...A social worker in 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland, Mrs. Sendler
and her friends set up soup kitchens when the Nazis ordered her agency
to cut off support for impoverished Jews. When the Gestapo corralled
450,000 Jews in Warsaw into a cramped ghetto and the prisoners began
starving to death, Mrs. Sendler obtained a pass to enter under the guise
of preventing an epidemic of infectious diseases. Once inside, Mrs.
Sendler told the Jews the Nazis were planning to murder them and
convinced them to hide their children.

Mrs. Sendler used an ambulance to smuggle children out of the ghetto in
burlap sacks and coffins. A barking dog on the front seat would
sometimes drown out the cries of children in the back who had been
separated from their parents. She received help from her friends and
Zegota, the Polish Council to Aid the Jews. More children were smuggled
out in garbage cans, toolboxes, and through a church on the edge of

In October 1943, Gestapo officers arrested Mrs. Sendler and tortured
her for three months before she was sentenced to be shot by firing
squad. But Zegota bribed a Nazi guard who helped her escape. [More]
If you'd like to sign an online petition promoting Irena Sendler for a Nobel Peace Prize you can do so here.

Special thanks to my friend Bernardyna who made me aware of this article.