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The Warsaw Voice » Society » May 14, 2008
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Death of Hero Who Saved Jews
May 14, 2008   
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Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who saved thousands of Jews during World War II, died in Warsaw May 12 at the age of 98. Her father was a physician in Warsaw and had many poor Jews among his patients. During the war, Sendler worked for a social welfare center in the city. In December 1942, she became head of the children's section of the Żegota Council for Aid to Jews.

As a social welfare worker, Sendler held a pass that allowed her to enter the Warsaw ghetto. While in the ghetto, she wore an armband with the Star of David as a sign of solidarity with Jews and to mingle with the ghetto population. As she worked for a Polish relief organization that operated under German supervision, she was able to smuggle Jewish children out of the ghetto. The children were later placed with Polish families, orphanages and Roman Catholic convents in Warsaw and nearby Chotomów and Turkowice. By the time the Warsaw ghetto was destroyed, Sendler had saved around 2,500 Jewish children. Their personal details, encoded and hidden in jars, survived the war. As a result, these Jewish children could regain their identity after the war.

In 1943, Sendler was arrested by the German police, the Gestapo, tortured and sentenced to death. But the Żegota Council for Aid to Jews managed to save her by bribing German guards, and she resumed her underground activity.

Sendler was honored with the Righteous Among the Nations award from the Israeli Remembrance Authority Yad Vashem. She also received the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest distinction; the Commander's Cross with a Star of the Polonia Restituta Order; and the Jan Karski Award. In addition, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the World Federation of Jewish Children Saved from the Holocaust.

Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland, said Sendler "has shown us that the most important thing in life is to help other people."
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