Irena Sendlerowa (Sendler), a Polish Catholic who is now 98 years old, was an activist in both the Polish Underground and the Polish Anti-Holocaust resistance in Warsaw, Poland. Her employment at the Social Welfare Department and as the head of the Children’s Section of the Żegota Council for Assistance to the Jews afforded her the opportunity to help save the lives of more than 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. She was able to provide them with forged documents, such as identification papers, and to find places to hide

“She organized the smuggling of Jewish children from the Ghetto, carrying them out, and placing them with either Polish families, the Warsaw orphanage of the Sisters of the Family of Mary, or Roman Catholic convents such as the Sisters Little Servants of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mary (L.S.I.C.) at Turkowice and Chotomow. She kept lists of the names, hidden in jars, in order to keep track of original and new identities.

Arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo, she was severely tortured and sentenced to death. The Żegota saved her by bribing the German guards on the way to her execution. Officially, she was listed on public bulletin boards as among those executed. Even in hiding, she continued her work for the Jewish children.”

1948, 1st of May, Warsaw. 1st May Parade.
Irena in the car of Social Welfare Department in front of a governmental stand.

Irena has been recognised for her courage and efforts many times since then, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 (Al Gore won, instead).

Nine years ago, in 1999, Norm Conard, a high school teacher from Pittsburg, Kansas, and his students created a play recreating Irena’s courageous actions. They titled it “LIFE IN A JAR” after her hiding place for the documents. There have since been over 240 performances of this play and a foundation was created in her honor, “Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project” .

The LIFE IN A JAR Foundation will be presenting an award on April 4, 2008, “The Irena Sendler Award”, in Warsaw,Poland. “The award will be presented to a teacher in Poland who best represents the ideals of Irena and Holocaust Education”.

You can check the calendar, here, to see if there will be an upcoming performance in your area.

For more information about Irena Sendlerowa and her acts of heroism:

Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project

Irena’s Children

Irena Sendler

Irena’s Children @ Holocaust Studies at Aish.com

Irena Sendler @ Yad Vashem

Irena Sendler: WWII Rescuer and Hero

ABC News: Holocaust Hero Turns 97

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