An Angel on earth, now an Angel in Heaven:
Irena Sendler — credited with saving some 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, some of them in baskets — died Monday, her family said. She was 98.
"Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this earth, and not a title to glory," Sendler said in 2007 in a letter to the Polish Senate after lawmakers honored her efforts in 2007.
A Righteous Gentile:
In 1965, Sendler became one of the first so-called Righteous Gentiles honored by the Jerusalem for wartime heroics. Poland's communist leaders at that time would not allow her to travel to Israel; she collected the award in 1983.Holocaust memorial in
Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said Sender's "courageous activities rescuingserve as a beacon of light to the world, inspiring hope and restoring faith in the innate goodness of mankind."
I have been to Yad Vashem and it is overwhelming, I can't think of another word to describe it. It's just so hard to imagine the lives lost, the generations lost. Irena Sendler saved more than just the children:
"It took a true miracle to save a Jewish child," Elzbieta Ficowska, who was saved by Sendler's team as a baby in 1942, recalled in an AP interview in 2007. "Mrs. Sendler saved not only us, but also our children and grandchildren and the generations to come."
And she kept silent:
Anyone caught helping Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland risked being summarily shot, along with family members — a fate Sendler only barely escaped herself after the 1943 raid by the Gestapo.
The Nazis took her to the notorious Pawiak prison, which few people left alive. Gestapo agents tortured her repeatedly, leaving Sendler with scars on her body — but she refused to betray her team.
"I kept silent. I preferred to die than to reveal our activity," she was quoted as saying in Anna Mieszkowska's biography, "Mother of the Children of the Holocaust: The Story of Irena Sendler."
Zegota, an underground organization helping Jews, paid a bribe to German guards to free her from the prison. Under a different name, she continued her work.
So many generations of Jews were lost. Forever. But some were not lost. They live on today, the justification of Irena Sendler's existence on this earth.