Saturday, May 17, 2008

Irena Sendler...

A heroine of mine died a few days ago: Irena Sendler of Warsaw, Poland. I never met her (though I certainly would like to have); I only know her through reading on the web. I first learned of her existence when she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Here's a short version of her story:

Before World War II, Irena was a social worker in Warsaw. During the Nazi occupation of Warsaw (1939 - 1943), she (a Christian) helped over 2,500 otherwise doomed Jewish children escape from the Warsaw ghetto. The Nazis punished such good deeds by death; her activities carried enormous personal risk. She kept the children's names and locations on lists in jars, hoping that after the war she could reunite them with their parents. Very few of the Jewish parents survived the war; most died at concentration camps like Treblinka. In 1943 Irena was arrested by the Gestapo, tortured (suffering awful injuries), and sentenced to be executed. The underground organization she belonged to bribed her guards and she escaped – and went right back to work rescuing more Jewish children. The photo above was taken just after that escape.

A few years ago, a group of American students discovered Irena's story (previously unknown in America) and were inspired to create a play. This play turned into a bigger project to take care of rescuers like Irena, and goes on yet today. I just discovered that they have a DVD out, which I have ordered.

In a 2005 interview, Irena had this to say about her heroism:
We who were rescuing children are not some kind of heroes. That term irritates me greatly. The opposite is true – I continue to have qualms of conscience that I did so little. I could have done more. This regret will follow me to my death.
Such humility is entirely characteristic of almost everyone I know in her generation. I doubt the children she rescued – most of whom are still alive – have any such regrets.

The world could use more like you, Irena. Rest in peace...

Irena didn't win the Nobel Peace Price – the committee decided that Al Gore was a more worthy (if less humble) recipient. That tells you all you need to know about the objectivity, political motivation, and political bias of that body of “worthies”. My contempt for them knows no bounds; this is just one of their many such idiotic selections.

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