Irena Sendler

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She takes the crying baby into her arms, turns her back on the hysterical mother, and walks off into the night. If she's caught, she and the baby will die. "Promise me my child will live!" the mother cries desperately after her. She turns for a moment. "I can't promise that. But I can promise that if he stays with you, he will die."

Irena Sendler is a heroic woman to say the least. Sendler was born February 15, 1910, in Otwock, a small town southeast of Warsaw, Poland. She was an only child of Catholic parents who devoted much of their lives to help Jewish workers. Her parents raised her to respect and love people regardless of their ethnicity or social status. She was especially influenced by her father, a doctor who defied anti-Semites by treating sick Jews during outbreaks of typhoid fever. Her father died of the disease when Sendler was 9. The last words her dying father told her “If someone is drowning in a river, you must jump in and try to save them, even if you cannot swim”. Even before the war, Irena had strong loyalties towards Jews. In the 1930s, at Warsaw University, she stood up for her Jewish friends. Jews were forced to sit separately from "Aryan" students. One day, Irena went to sit on the Jewish side of the room. When the teacher told her to move, she answered, "I'm Jewish today." She was expelled immediately. Decades later, under Communist rule, she was considered a subversive; her son and daughter were refused entry into Warsaw University. During the time of the war, Irena was a senior administrator in the Warsaw Social Welfare Department, which was in charge of soup kitchens, located in every district of the city. They distributed meals and gave financial assistance and other services to the poor, elderly, and orphans. From 1939–1942, she was involved in acquiring forged documents, she registered many Jews under Christian names so they could receive services.
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