Irena Sendler died in Warsaw, Poland on May 12, 2008, at the age of, 98. Not many around the world knew or cared, to be very honest. They did not know Irena, and to them she was just another old woman who was certainly old enough to die.
I did happen to know Irena. Oh, I never met the woman personally, but I did spend years teaching her story to students who barely knew that twice there had been a world war, let alone that once upon a time there was a holocaust….
Steve Clemons reminded me of Irena’s story this past week, and I decided to pass it along to those of you who may not know it.
During WWII, Irena received permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. Of course, she had an ulterior motive…an unbelievable ulterior motive.
You see, Irena knew what was happening, and she cared enough to take a job that would allow her to smuggle Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. For the larger children, she carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck.
Irena kept a dog in the back of the truck 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 any noise that the children might make.
Believe it or not, Irena managed to save 2500 children before she was caught. The Nazis broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely, but Irena had kept a record of all of the names of the children she smuggled to safety. The list was buried in a glass jar, under a tree in her backyard.
After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the families. Of course, most had been gassed; however, she saw that their children were placed into foster family homes or adopted.
In 2007, Irena Sendler was considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.