Meet the female Schindler who saved 2,500 kids by posing them as gentiles
During World War II, Irena Sendler saved more people than Oskar Schindler, smuggling some 2,500 Jewish children from Warsaw’s ghetto to safety. Each time, she escaped certain death, as the price for anyone who helped a Jew was summary execution.
Sendler, a Catholic, helped establish an underground network , ferrying children — in coffins, toolboxes, even under coats — to the homes of Polish gentile families.
“Irena’s Children” tells Sendler’s tale — including how she wrote each child’s real name on a scroll that she buried under an apple tree. The lists represented a hope that after the war had ended, she would be able to reunite the kids with their parents.
Sendler was working at the Citizens’ Social Aid Committee, helping unwed mothers, when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939.
As a form of resistance, she and her co-workers faked welfare files — listing made-up names to secure cash, food and clothing for Jewish families whose bank accounts were frozen. To ensure that the Germans did not try to visit these fictitious clans, she added details about contagious diseases such as typhus and cholera.
By the second year of the occupation, Germany began relocating Warsaw’s Jewish residents to one of the city’s poorest areas — with families crammed into small apartments, six or seven people to a room. Food rations were reduced to 200 calories a day — if you could even afford to buy food. The ghetto was sealed off with bricks, barbed wire and armed guards in November 1940, confining 400,000 Jews behind its walls.
But Sendler had access to the ghetto due to her work. So she and a few cohorts began secretly removing the kids and resettling them with gentile families. Birth certificates were forged, reinventing
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