By Carolyn Danckaert, A Mighty Girl Founder
One of the great heroes of WWII led a secret operation to successfully smuggle 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, saving them from almost certain death, yet few people know the name of this largely unsung hero or have heard Irena Sendler's incredible story. Born in 1910, Sendler was a Polish Catholic nurse and social worker who began aiding Jews as early as 1939 after the Germans invaded Poland. At first, she helped to create false documents for over 3,000 Jewish families and later joined the Zegota, the underground Polish resistance organization created to aid the country's Jewish population.
In 1943, Sendler became head of Zegota's children's division and used her special access to the Warsaw Ghetto, granted to Social Welfare Department employees to conduct inspections for typhus, to set up a smuggling operation. She and her colleagues began secretly transporting babies and children out of the Ghetto by hiding them in an ambulance with a false bottom or in baskets, coffins, and even potato sacks. The children were then given false identities and placed with Polish families or in orphanages. To allow the children to be reunited with any surviving relatives following the war, Sendler buried lists containing the identities and locations of the children in jars. Continue reading Continue reading