Irena Sandler

September 7th, 2008 at 7:35 pm by David Farrar

I came across a reference to on Friday. An amazing woman who was an example of humanity at its finest. From Wikipedia:

She organized the smuggling of Jewish children from the Ghetto, carrying them out in boxes, suitcases and trolleys. Under the pretext of conducting inspections of sanitary conditions during a typhoid outbreak, Sendler visited the ghetto and smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and trams, sometimes disguising them as packages. She also used the old courthouse of the edge of the Warsaw Ghetto (still standing) as one of the main routes of smuggling children out. The children were placed with 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 at Turkowice and Chotomów. Some were smuggled to priests in parish rectories where they could be further hidden. She hid lists of their names in jars, in order to keep track of their original and new identities. Żegota assured the children that, when the war was over, they must be returned to Jewish relatives.

In 1943, Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo, severely tortured, and sentenced to death. Żegota saved her by bribing German guards on the way to her execution. She was left in the woods, unconscious and with broken arms and legs. She was listed on public bulletin boards as among those executed. For the remainder of the war, she lived in hiding, but continued her work for the Jewish children. After the war, she dug up the jars containing the children’s identities and began an attempt to find the children and return them to living parents. However, almost all the children’s parents had died at the Treblinka extermination camp.

During 1943, she managed to save a staggering 2,500 children by sneaking them out. Truly remarkable.

She sadly died in May, aged 98. She was 33 when she was tortured by the Gestapo.

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13 Responses to “Irena Sandler”

  1. LabourDoesntWork (282 comments) says:

    Thanks for posting this, otherwise I might never have heard of her myself.

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  2. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    This begs me to ask myself what the heck am I doing with my own life. It also makes folk like Judith Tizard and Winston Peters (and some National MPs too) look rather tragic in that one could suggest they’ve lived for nothing but themselves and have wasted their lives.

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  3. MajorBloodnok (361 comments) says:

    Very impressive. Especially her awards (see the Wikipedia article). Thanks.

    The saddest thing for me, however, was that she was nominated (unsuccessfully) for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. But who actually won it? Al Gore and the IPCC! Good grief.

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  4. getstaffed (9,189 comments) says:

    Amazing! The determination and sense of purpose shown by this woman is astounding. Thanks for posting this David.

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  5. Nomestradamus (2,943 comments) says:

    Thanks DPF – a truly inspirational story.

    She sadly died in May, aged 98

    I certainly don’t recall any coverage of this. Was there a special funeral to mark her life?

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  6. Glutaemus Maximus (2,207 comments) says:

    As the neo-nazis in Europe say. The Holocaust or ‘Final Solution’ never happened.

    We intend to visit the ‘Eagles Nest’, and Auswitch Birkenau’ next fall.

    Just have to check that the history books are indeed correct.

    Amazing courage in the face of ‘Pure Evil’, Got the ‘Nazis, a warning from history’ series by the BBC.

    Chilled to the bone. Lot of people got swept up the madness that claimed 56m lives.

    And still some skinheaded fuckwits claim it is a conspiracy to make Fascists look bad.

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  7. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Hence I dislike seeing our politicians called ‘totalitarian’ ‘fascist’ ‘nazi’ even ‘Mugabe’. The levels of brutality exercised by the Nazis is truly terrible. Imagine the stomach-churning fear that Irena Sandler must have experienced while resisting this monstrous regime. How brave we appear when we challenge our politicians in our blogs for taking our ‘freedoms’! I don’t think I possess an ounce of the bravery Irena Sandler and her co-conspirators exhibited. Similar unsung heroes are at large in modern regimes even as we speak. The purpose of totalitarianism is to dominate thinking and deceive history to perpetuate the myth that when governments oppress, that hope is extinguished. Irena Sandler and her ilk show that deception for the lie it is.

    [DPF: I agree both on using the terms lightly but also on her bravery. I hope if faced with the same situation I could be even 10% as brave]

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  8. GerryandthePM (328 comments) says:

    Glutaemus Maximus
    The “Eagles Nest” is in a stunning location, one of the most memorable in my travels.
    It is difficult to reconcile how such vileness and ugliness could be conceived in a place of such beauty and serenity.

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  9. Murray (8,838 comments) says:

    Nomestradamus it got some minor MSM coverage and was well covered in the blogosphere.

    As MajorBloodnok points out the nobel prizes are now completely politisized. The actual requirements for the peace prize were orgionaly “working towards reducing standing armies and promoting dialogue” and these have been “revised” to include such warm cuddly things as “The candidate’s work on issues of peace, justice, human dignity, and the integrity of the environment”.

    I think Mr Nobel might be inclined to use some of his product on these people were he to see what they had done with his legacy.

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  10. Wanderer (30 comments) says:

    A shining example of Walking the walk instead of Talking the talk – a true inspiration in times of hardship.

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  11. baxter (893 comments) says:

    It reminds me of our own neglected heroine Nancy WAKE. One of the immediate small but effective commitments National could make would be to award her the countries highest honour when they are elected.

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  12. mara (726 comments) says:

    What Murray said. Al Gore anyone? Bletch! But remember brothers and sisters; we are all equal in the sight of god. Which means that the emetic, pin-headed, little, no-hoping suck-hole who, probably creatively, smashed my letterbox last “pissed on the town night”, is actually equal to, and deserves the same respect as, say, Irena Sandler. Pass the tambourines and praise the lord. ……… The little prick probably can’t use commas properly either.

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  13. PhilBest (5,117 comments) says:

    Agree with everybody above, but if I can be excused a little subject deflection, is there not a massive shortfall of historical repudiation of the evils done by the Communist regimes that lasted a lot longer and were a lot more murderous?

    From “Will there be an “After Socialism”?” by Alan Charles Kors:

    “……..The West accepts an epochal, monstrous, unforgivable double stan­dard. We rehearse the crimes of Nazism almost daily, we teach them to our children as ultimate historical and moral lessons, and we bear witness to every victim. We are, with so few exceptions, almost silent on the crimes of Communism. So the bodies lie among us, unnoticed, every­where. We insisted upon “de-Nazification,” and we excoriate those who tempered it in the name of new or emerging political realities. There never has been and never will be a similar “de-Communization,” al­though the slaughter of innocents was exponentially greater, and al­though those who signed the orders and ran the camps remain. In the case of Nazism, we hunt down ninety-year-old men because “the bones cry out” for justice. In the case of Communism, we insisted on “no witch hunts” – let the dead bury the living. But the dead can bury no one.

    Our artists rightly obsess on the lesser but still immeasurable Holo­caust, which lasted several years, and when we watch “Night and Fog,” “Shoah,” “Schindler’s List,” and almost countless other films, we weep, we lament, and we rededicate the humane parts of our souls. The greater Communist holocaust, which lasted decade after decade-the great char­nel house of human history – educes no such art. Its one tender, modest film, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” based on Solzhenitsyn’s novel, is almost never replayed and cannot be found for purchase. The Communist holocaust should have brought forth a flowering of Western art, and witness, and sympathy. It should have called forth an overflow­ing ocean of tears. Instead, it has called forth a glacier of indifference. Kids who in the 1960s had portraits of Mao and Che on their college walls – the moral equivalent of having hung portraits of Hitler, Goebbels, or Horst Wessel in one’s dorm – now teach our children about the moral superiority of their political generation. Every historical textbook lingers on the crimes of Nazism, seeks their root causes, and announces a lesson that should be learned. Everyone knows the number “six million.” By con­trast, it is always “the mistakes” of Communism or of Stalinism (repeated, by mistake, again, and again, and again). Ask college freshmen how many died under Stalin’s regime, and they will answer, even now, “Thou­sands? Tens of thousands?” This is the equivalent of believing that Hitler killed “hundreds” of Jews. The scandal of such ignorance does not derive from this or that textbook, but from an intellectual culture’s willful blind­ness to the catastrophe of its relative sympathies. Chile offered refuge and asylum to Erich Honecker, the tyrant of East Germany who wanted the tanks in the streets – it is time to bury the past without rancor, everyone said – but clamors now for “justice” for Augusto Pinochet. On the same day that Spain indicted Chile ‘s Pinochet, it welcomed, with honors, Cuba ‘s Castro, while Castro’s critics or naysayers – or any groups, like gays, that annoyed the tyrant – lie dead, rot in prison, or try to recover from the deadly work camps to which he sent them. Most of Europe has outlawed the neo-Nazis, but the French Communist Party has been, from 1999 to 2002, part of a ruling government. One may not fly the swastika, but one may hoist the hammer and sickle at official events. The denial of Hitler’s dead or the minimization of the Jewish Holocaust is, literally, a crime in most of Europe . In contrast, the denial or minimization of Communist crimes is an intellectual and political art form……..

    “…….Imagine if World War II had ended with a European Nazi empire, from the Urals to the Channel, soon armed with nuclear weapons, in a mortal contest with the United States , with peace kept only by deterrence. Imag­ine an evolution from a Hitler to an Albert Speer. Would the children of the Left have led songs of “All we are saying is give peace a chance” beneath symbols of unilateral disarmament? Would American opposition to Nazi influence anywhere, let alone the Nazi securing of bases in the Western Hemisphere, have led to domestic charges of our being the im­perialist “world policeman”? Would our intellectuals have mocked or cheered the phrase “evil empire”? What were the differences? Deaths? Camps? The desolation of the flesh and of the spirit? The bodies will not be buried without an answer to this. How we celebrated the fall of Na­zism and the blasting down of the swastika. How mute we were in 1989 during what should have been (and still should be), at the least, the solemnization of the fall of the world’s most powerful hammer and sickle, symbol of the ultimate slaughter. If it had been the Third Reich’s swastika that had fallen after two generations of cold war, the joy and catharsis would have lit our cities. Do our intellectuals, our politicians, and our teachers believe or disbelieve what Solzhenitsyn stated so directly about the Soviets?:

    “[N]o other regime on earth could compare with it either in the num­ber of those it had done to death, in hardiness, in the range of its ambitions, in its thoroughgoing and unmitigated totalitarianism­ – no, not even the regime of its pupil Hitler.””

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