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20 years

ost of the people who had chance encounters with the old woman from the small, unobtrusive apartment down the hall from them in Warsaw, Poland prior to the fall of 1999 had no idea who Irena Sendlerowa (shortened to Irena Sendler) was. Few realized that in 1965, two years before the Yad Vashem organization in the State of Israel honored German industrialist Oskar Schindler—the only member of the Nazi Party to be so recognized—Israel's Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority) proclaimed her a hero of Israel and accorded Sendler the title "Righteous Among Nations" (righteous Gentile). Or, that in 1991, the frail 81-year old Roman Catholic Polish woman was made an honorary citizen of Israel

Sendler was "discovered" by four high school students in rural Uniontown, Kansas in 1999. In the fall of that year history teacher Norman Conrad engaged four students—9th graders Megan Stewart, Elizabeth Cambers, Jessica Shelton and 11th grader Sabrina Coons—to accept Conrad's challenge. They decided to enter their project, initiated from a news clipping given to them by Conrad, in the National History Day project. The clipping, from a March, 1994 issue of US News & World Report, concerned a woman named Irena Sendler who reportedly saved 2,500 children from the hands of the SS and the Gestapo in the Warsaw Ghetto between 1942 and 1943. Conrad told the girls that the odds were pretty good that the 2,500 was a typographical error and that it was more likely the total children saved would be closer to 250.

How could one simple woman, working alone, rescue 2,500 babies and small children from under the eyes of the German-SS? The SS controlled those entering and leaving the Warsaw Ghetto before that population was summarily moved to the concentration camp system collectively known as Auschwitz between April 19 and May 16, 1943.

Irena Sendler was born Irena Kzyzanowski in 1910. Her parents were Janina and Stanislaw Kzyzanowski. They moved to Otwock, Poland, about 15 miles from Warsaw shortly before Irena was born on Feb. 15, 1910. Irena's father, a Socialist, was a physician. A poor man himself, most of his patients were poor Jews. At the time of the September, 1939 German invasion of Poland when horse-mounted Polish cavalry attacked advancing German Panzer tanks Irena, who was then 29-years old, worked as the Senior Administrator of the Warsaw Social Welfare Department. The Social Welfare Department operated canteens that provided food, clothing, medicine and a limited financial aid and other services to orphans and those who were destitute. With the German invasion and the regulated displacement of the Jews, Irena took it upon herself to expand the benevolence of the agency to include newly impoverished Jews. To provide such services to Jews, Sendler had to register them under fictitious Christian names. To prevent follow-up inspections from German authorities, Sendler listed their afflictions as typhus, tuberculosis or some other highly contagious disease. The more deadly the infectious disease the less curious any official would likely be to check.

As the Germans began preparing the Warsaw Jews for the "final solution"—the extermination camps, beginning with Auschwitz in 1939 to rid the "Master Race" of the Jews in the Cracow Ghetto—they began systemically compressing the Warsaw Jewish community by herding close to a half million Jews into a 16-block area in 1940 that officially became known as the "Warsaw Ghetto" (and was the scene of the 1961 Leon Uris best seller, "Mila 18"). The 16-block area was walled and became a virtual prison for the Jews who awaited their fate at the hands of the Nazis as they apprehensively digested the horror stories of death camps like Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachua, Bergen-Belsen, Birkenau, Gross-Rosen, Ravensbruck and Monowitz, choosing not to believe that the rumors spreading throughout the country could be true. Sendler, working under the code name of Jolanta with the Polish Zegota (the Council for Aid to Jews), knew the stories were true. Zegota was an underground group of about 30 Polish citizens, most of whom were Catholic women—almost all midwives—who would sneak into the ghetto at night and rescue newborn Jewish babies from what would very soon become the jaws of death when the Warsaw ghetto was evacuated and 100% of its inhabitants were transferred to the concentration camps where they were forced into starvation slave labor until they died or were put to death. Across Warsaw Sendler organized ten of these "care centers."

The babies were hidden by Sendler and her accomplices until they could be placed with Christian foster parents or in Catholic orphanages or in convents where the Jewish babies were disguised as Christians, which means they could legally be adopted. For over a year, Sendler, using her credentials as a social worker, walked the ghetto and convinced Jewish parents and grandparents to place their small children in her care. Sendler convinced the Jews the rumors they were hearing about the death camps were true, and surrendering their children to her was the only way to protect them from almost certain death in the Nazi extermination camps.

Sendler entered the Warsaw Ghetto, sometimes two or three times a day, to whisk children to safety. She managed to secure over 3,000 forged documents for the children she rescued. She sometimes posed as an infection-control nurse and even as a day-laborer wearing a Jewish Star-of-David armband. She drugged small babies with sedatives to prevent them from crying out and smuggled them past the German guards in gunny sacks, boxes, trucks and even coffins. On at least one occasion, a small child was smuggled out of the ghetto under a load of bricks. Sendler led older children out of the Ghetto through the sewers of Warsaw, through secret openings in the ghetto wall, and through church catacombs.

As she rescued children, Sendler fastidiously kept a record of each child's Jewish name, the names and the last known addresses of their parents and other family members, and the names and addresses of the non-Jewish families who adopted or otherwise agreed to raise the children until they could be reunited with their parents. Fearful that these records might be discovered by the Gestapo or the SS, Sendler placed the scraps of paper detailing the whereabouts of, what would ultimately become, about 2,500 children, in two Mason jars and buried the jars under an apple tree beside a garden in the backyard of the home of the one of the Zegota members within sight of the German barracks.

Sendler was arrested on Oct. 20, 1943 and taken to Piawiak Prison which was used by the Gestapo to interrogate and torture the most important political prisoners. As part of the questioning, her Gestapo interrogators used a wooden club to break both of her legs and fracture her toes and feet. Trying to convince her that her own fellow conspirators had betrayed her, her Gestapo interrogator repeatedly held up a folder which, he said, contained information about her provided by those who had informed on her. Sendler, the only person who knew where the "jars of life" were buried, said nothing. A Gestapo "court" sentenced her to death. She was to be shot. As she awaited her execution, the Zegota bribed the German executioner who helped her escape. Although she was no longer held captive by the Gestapo, the German military loudly proclaimed that she had been executed by plastering Warsaw with posters proclaiming her death.

Irena Sendler spent the rest of World War II in hiding. But she was not idle. Up until her capture, Sendler had either personally or with help, snatched over 400 infants and small children out of jaws of certain death. Between October, 1943 and the liberation of the extermination camps near Cracow by Soviet forces under Field Marshall Ivan Koniev on January 27, 1945, Sendler rescued an additional 2,100 children from sure death. (US forces captured, and liberated, the concentration camps in Germany.) Sadly, almost every parent of the children she rescued died in Treblinka, one of the Auschwitz extermination camps. Sendler told her biographers that later that night the Gestapo arrived at her home and arrested her. She had been working on the list, and had one of the two jars containing the complete list of names and where those children were, in her possession. Fortunately, a quick-thinking young female Zegota member (not sought by the Gestapo) was there and managed to hide the list in her underwear. Had the Gestapo searched the young girl, 400 Jewish children and their non-Jewish caretakers would have been captured.

When she escaped from Piawiak Prison, Sendler never again brought either jar into her home. Additions to the list, always compiled on tissue paper, were done privately and taken to the garden apple tree where the jars were dug up, the new data stored, and the jars reburied.

On October 10, 2003 the neighbors of the little old lady in the apartment down the hall in Warsaw realized they had a true celebrity in their midst. The award, the Order of the White Owl (Order Orta Bialego), presented by the government of Poland is the highest honor given to civilians for heroism. It has been awarded eight times since it was created in 1705. The award was presented to Sendler by Polish President Lech Kaczyriski. She was also awarded the Jan Karsi Award for courage and heart. That award was presented by the American Center of Polish Culture in Washington, DC. And, finally, on March 14, 2007 Sendler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. At age 97 and in a nursing home, Sendler was unable to attend the nominating ceremony in the Polish Senate. Instead, Sendler sent a surrogate in Elzbieta Ficowska. Ficowska was one of the 2,500 "Sendler kids," whom she saved as an infant.

Sendler lost her bid for the Nobel Prize to a former US Vice President named Al Gore, Jr. Gore won the prize for a fabricated slide slow on global warming called An Inconvenient Truth in which the dramatic footage of a large section of an ice sheet at the South Pole which appeared to break off and drift out to sea was actually Styrofoam special effects borrowed from the movie, "The Day After Tomorrow." For the past 50 years the Nobel Prize Committee has not announced the names of the losers when the prize is granted, but in this instance, they wanted to publicly acknowledge Sendler's wartime contributions. That decision also highlights the political pressure placed on the Nobel Prize organization to make a political decision in 2007 when the globalists within the New World Order hierarchy very much needed to convince the world that global warming was a fact when the opposite is true—Al Gore's real inconvenient truth.

In the case of Irena Sendler, the fact that she did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize was not important. Through the years she has received accolades far more important to her than those heaped upon man by governments and bureaucracies. One came in the form of a letter from Pope John Paul II praising her as "Righteous Among The Nations." Added to that were the voices of some of those she saved during the war years. They have been the voices of gratitude. Over the years many of them found her. Elzbieta Ficowska was 6 months old when Sendler smuggled her out of the Warsaw Ghetto under a pile of bricks. Her parents gave her a sedative to keep her quiet as Sendler passed the guard station. In her hand, Ficowska clenched a silver spoon, which she still has today. That one item is all that remains of her past. Her parents died in the extermination camps shortly after Sendler removed her from Treblinka. There are no memories of her parents and no family photos or other memorabilia. Another was Katrarzyna Meloch. When her parents were killed, Sendler managed to get her out of the ghetto to a Catholic convent. The nuns protected not only her but dozens of other Jewish children that the Zegota saved from Nazi extermination. Most of the children she saved never learned the truth about the woman who brought them out of danger until they were adults. Most traveled to Warsaw to find Sendler and to thank her. That was the real prize she cherished. To have someone say, "Your's is the face I remember..."

Elzbieta Ficowska was one of those voices that told Sendler, "Your's is the face I remember when I was being covered with bricks..." Ficowska was her caregiver at the nursing home. She was with Sendler when the elderly woman passed from this life into the next on May 12, 2008 at the age of 98. Somehow I feel that when she reached Heaven, God took a few extra moments to greet her at the Gate, saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant." And, when the Book of Deeds is cracked opened after the Judgment, and rewards are meted to those who earned them during this life, the Heavenly Host will look in Sendler's direction and ask: "Who is that woman with that glorious crown? Is she a queen?"


Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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