Irena Sendler (1910-2008)

Irena Sendler (1910-2008) was a Polish social worker who served in the Polish Resistance Movement in World War II. In 1942, the Polish Underground created the Council To Aid Jews, which received the codename ‘Zegota’, and Sendler was one of its first recruits. By that time, she had already been helping Jews while working at the Welfare Department, as she found ways of registering Jewish families with fictitious Christian names, and to prevent inspections, she reported that those families had been diagnosed with highly infectious diseases. Working for the ‘Zegota’, Irena managed to obtain an official medical pass that allowed her to legally enter the Warsaw Ghetto. During the year of 1943, while working in the Ghetto, she would smuggle out babies and small children in her medical bag, her small ambulance or anywhere they could fit in, to save them from their condemned existence in the Ghetto and place them in Polish foster families, who where themselves taking high risks. She carefully noted her names and buried the information in glass jars in a garden so that in the future they could be returned to their parents. In all, Sendler saved 2500 children. Being arrested by the Gestapo in October 1943, she was tortured and condemned to death. Yet, as the Polish Underground found a way to rescue her, Irena changed identities and continued involved in the work of the Zegota. She was awarded with numerous prizes and the tree of Irena Sendler stands at the entrance of the Avenue of the Righteous, in Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

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