On this date in 2008, Irena Sendler passed away. She was 98 years old.
Irena Sendler was a Polish social worker and nurse who smuggled approximately 2,500 Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied Warsaw.
She entered the ghetto using a special work pass and would smuggle out children in the bottom of her toolbox and also utilise her burlap sack for larger kids. She also used ambulances and sewers to get them out of the ghetto.
She was eventually caught by the Nazis and despite being tortured and having both her arms and legs broken, she did not reveal the names nor whereabouts of the children she had rescued. She was sentenced to death but managed to escape on the day of her scheduled execution after the Polish resistance bribed Nazi officials for her release.
She is quoted as saying, “Let me stress most emphatically that we who were rescuing children are not some kind of heroes. Indeed, that term irritates me greatly. The opposite is true. I continue to have pangs of conscience that I did so little.”
All the children Sendler had rescued had only known her by her code name, Jolanta. Many years after the war, a photo of Sendler appeared in a local newspaper. “A man, a painter, telephoned me,” recalled Sendler, “‘I remember your face,’ he said. `It was you who took me out of the ghetto.’ I had many calls like that!”
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