(Irena Sendlerowa) Polish Catholic social worker who served in the Polish Underground and the Żegota resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw during World War II
Irene Sendler quotes:
Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.
I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that i
The reason why I rescued children from the ghetto dates back to may family home and childhood. I was brought up to react that a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality. A requirement dictated by the heart.
It soon proved imperative to get children out on the so-called Aryan side since inside the ghetto it was hell.
We sometimes had to leave such unfortunate families without taking their children from them. I went there the next day to see what the whole building had come to and often found that everyone had been taken to the Umschlagsplatz railway siding for transport to death camps.
I know of cases when the sole chance of survival was the external window-sill, behind a curtain, keeping the child there as long as necessary, holding on with numb hands so as not to fall, until the Germans left the home of his adopted parents.
The children paid dear for the "price of life". A child sometimes had to be taken away from one "parents" and placed with others for their safety and that of the child.
No one has ever refused to take and save a Jewish child from me
I cannot give a short description of what I experienced in the Gestapo cellars in Szucha Street and in Pawiak prison. The Pawiak museum contains a special cabinet with the instruments used by those "supermen" to torture prisoners. I still carry the marks on my body of what those "German supermen" did to me then. I was sentenced to death. "The Żegota" [Relief Council for Jews, working under the auspices of the Home Army] the Jewish underground aid organisation smuggled messages to me that I am not to worry for it is doing everything possible to get me out. The whole leadership of Żegota liked me very much and had great respect for my work. They spared no effort to find a way to have my death sentence rescinded.
It is beyond description to tell what you feel when travelling to your own execution and, at the last moment, to find you had been bought out. A Gestapo officer had let me out for a large bribe. I figured in their documents as having been killed by firing squad. But after two months incorrect records were found in their registers. The Gestapo bribe-taker was sent to the eastern front and the Gestapo again visited me, but unsuccessfully for after leaving Pawiak illegally I had to change all my documents and also never to be found at home. I had to "steal" my dying mother from our home and take her to unknown persons until she ended her life several weeks later. The Gestapo was looking for me so obstinately that they were even at Mother's funeral asking which is the dead woman's daughter. Our friends replied "her daughter is in Pawiak prison". To which a Gestapo functionary replied furiously: "Sure she was but inexplicably no longer is". I continued working as the head of the children's section of "Żegota" though using entirely changed personal documents.
In conclusion 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 qualms of conscience that I did so little.
I want the Jewish community to know that there was resistance and a spirit among the Jews in the ghetto.
Response to the question, What was the most frightening moment? When I saw a priest in charge of an orphanage for Jewish children in the ghetto walk with them out to be killed. The children were in their best Sunday suits. The priest was killed with them.
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Image source: SpencerAlley.blogspot - Haus Wittgenstein