Hero­ine of the War­saw Ghetto dies, aged 98

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY RUTH ELLEN GRUBER

TRIBUTES HAVE been paid to Irena Sendler, a Pol­ish Catholic re­sis­tance hero­ine who helped save 2,500 Jewish chil­dren from the War­saw Ghetto and died this week aged 98.

“A great per­son has died — a per­son with a great heart, with great or­gan­i­sa­tional tal­ents, a per­son who al­ways stood on the side of the weak,” Marek Edel­man, the last sur­viv­ing leader of the War­saw Ghetto Up­ris­ing, told Pol­ish television.

Ms Sendler, who died in War­saw on Mon­day, headed the chil­dren’s sec­tion of Ze­gota, an un­der­ground or­gan­i­sa­tion set up to help Jews in wartime Poland.

As a so­cial worker, she was able to en­ter the Ghetto, where she and her team risked their lives to hide chil­dren in boxes, un­der the floor­boards of carts or even in suit­cases in or­der to smug­gle them out to safety.

“When I saw what was go­ing on, I just de­cided to act,” she said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

The chil­dren were placed with Catholic fam­i­lies and given new iden­ti­ties, but Ms Sendler kept a record of their real names, writ­ing them on slips of pa­per which she pre­served in two jars that were buried in a gar­den. In 1943 she was ar­rested and bru­tally tor­tured by the Gestapo, but she gave noth­ing away and sur­vived thanks to a Ze­gota bribe to Nazi of­fi­cials.

Yad Vashem recog­nised Ms Sendler as a Righ­teous Among Na­tions in 1965 when she be­came one of the first peo­ple to re­ceive the hon­our.

“Irena Sendler’s coura­geous ac­tivi- ties res­cu­ing Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust serve as a bea­con of light to the world, in­spir­ing hope and restor­ing faith in the in­nate good­ness of mankind,” Yad Vashem chair­man Avner Shalev said.

De­spite the award, Ms Sendler’s hero­ism re­mained lit­tle known un­til af­ter the fall of Com­mu­nism.She­gained­world renown in 1999 af­ter high school stu­dents in the United States pro­duced a play about her, called Life in a Jar.

Last year, Poland’s par­lia­ment de­clared Ms Sendler a na­tional hero, and she was nom­i­nated for the No­bel Peace Prize. Tributes poured in af­ter her death.

Ex­press­ing “great re­gret” at her pass­ing, Pres­i­dent Lech Kaczyn­ski called Ms Sendler “an ex­cep­tional per­son”.

Joachim Russek, di­rec­tor of the Cen­trum Ju­daica in Krakow, said: “In ex­treme con­di­tions, her at­ti­tude, con­duct, and ac­tions be­came an unattain­able model of hu­man­ity, courage, and peo­ple’s sol­i­dar­ity.”

She­vach Weiss, a for­mer Is­raeli Am­bas­sador to Poland, put it this way: “Now she went to God. And she will ask God -- ‘God, where were you in the time of Holo­caust?’ And God will an­swer to her: ‘I was in your heart.’”

Hero­ine: Irena Sendler as a young wo­man

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.