Thanks to the movie Schindler’s List, many of us know who Oscar Schindler is, and how at great cost he managed to save 1200 of his Jewish employees from the Holocaust. But most of you have never heard of Irena Sendler who saved 2500 Jewish children.
Born on February 15, 1910, in the town of Otwock, Poland, she would grow up and become a Catholic social worker. Sometime after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Sendler joined a Polish resistance group the Council to Aid Jews also known by its Polish name Zegota.
She was assigned to work with children and sent to the Warsaw Ghetto. Built by the Nazis in 1940, the Warsaw Ghetto was a 1.3 square mile walled off section of the city that served as a holding prison for 400,000 Jews. Those who were not hauled off to the death camps were slowly starved to death.
The Germans feared the spread of diseases like typhus and would allow Sendler and others in to try to promote good hygiene among the prisoners. While inside, they talked parents into surrendering their children to be smuggled out in suitcases and medical bags saving them from the ovens and gas chambers.
She and her colleagues kept meticulous records hoping to reunite children with their parents once the war was over, but sadly many of the parents died.
Eventually, she was reported to the Gestapo and arrested. Though she was tortured to the point of having her legs and feet broken, she never revealed the identities of any of her confederates in the Zegota, or the children they rescued.
Sentenced to be executed; she was aided in an escape. After she recovered from her injuries, she returned under a false name to work as a nurse in a public hospital where she managed to save five more Jews and survived the war.
For her life-saving work she was recognized by the nation of Israel as “Righteous among the Nations,” those non-Jews who labored to save Jews from the Holocaust. She was later awarded the Order of the White Eagle, her homeland’s highest honor for her humanitarian aid to the Jewish people.
Pope John Paul II sent Sendler a personal letter for her work, and in 2007 she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She lost to Al Gore who was awarded the Nobel Prize for producing the documentary on global warming titled An Inconvenient Truth.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13. Irena Sendler’s many sacrifices, humanitarian aid and life-saving work rank among history’s noblest, and I think it is an inconvenient truth she was upstaged by a documentary on global warming.