Thursday, May 22, 2008

Irena Sendler: Read this.

The obituary of Irena Sendler, dead at 96 yeara old.
Irena Sendler |

... That bureaucratic loophole allowed her to save more Jews than the far better known Oscar Schindler. It was astonishingly risky. Some children could be smuggled out in lorries, or in trams supposedly returning empty to the depot. More often they went by secret passageways from buildings on the outskirts of the ghetto. To save one Jew, she reckoned, required 12 outsiders working in total secrecy: drivers for the vehicles; priests to issue false baptism certificates; bureaucrats to provide ration cards; and most of all, families or religious orders to care for them. The penalty for helping Jews was instant execution.

To make matters even riskier, Mrs Sendler insisted on recording the children's details to help them trace their families later. These were written on pieces of tissue paper bundled on her bedside table; the plan was to hurl them out of the window if the Gestapo called. The Nazis did catch her (thinking she was a small cog, not the linchpin of the rescue scheme) but did not find the files, secreted in a friend's armpit. Under torture she revealed nothing. Thanks to a well-placed bribe, she escaped execution; the children's files were buried in glass jars. Mrs Sendler spent the rest of the war under an assumed name...

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