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.Tags: holocaust, Irena Sandler