Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another saint of WWII

From Crunchy-Con Rod Dreher:

Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic who saved the lives of 2,500 Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto, has died:

Sendler, a Roman Catholic, was born in Otwock, outside Warsaw, on February 15, 1910. Her father was a physician who directed a spa hospital. Sendler remembered him as someone who taught great compassion: “If you see someone drowning, you must try to rescue them, even if you cannot swim.”

She was an administrator in Warsaw’s welfare department in 1940, when Nazi Germany occupied Poland. Nearly half a million Jews were sequestered in Warsaw’s tiny ghetto, where conditions were appalling. The Nazis ordered a stop to normal social services, such as food and health care. Charged with warding off typhus and tuberculosis, Sendler had official permission to move freely in the ghetto. She convinced Jewish parents to let her hide their children. She used an ambulance to smuggle children in burlap sacks and coffins. A dog seated next to her would sometimes bark to drown out the children’s cries. She received aid from the Zegota, the Polish Council to Aid the Jews.

The children were given new names and false documents, and placed with Christian Polish families and at Christian religious establishments. Sendler wrote their real names on slips of paper that she hid in bottles underground, intending to retrieve them later.

The Gestapo arrested Sendler in 1943 and tortured her brutally, breaking her legs and feet with wooden clubs. She was sentenced to be executed, but she escaped after the Zegota bribed a guard. She remained in hiding until the end of the war, then dug up the bottles under the apple tree and tried to reunite the children with their families. Most of the families had perished, though some were placed with relatives around Europe. She was known within Poland, but she received little publicity in the West during the Cold War years. In 1980, she joined the Solidarity movement.

In her interview with the Sun, Sendler said: “If someone is drowning, you have to give them your hand. When the war started, all of Poland was drowning in a sea of blood, and those who were drowning the most were the Jews. And among the Jews, the worst off were the children. So I had to give them my hand.”

And her head today is no doubt resplendent with a crown. God rest her soul.

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