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Thread: Amazing story

  1. #1

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    Amazing story

    This is ostensibly from the Ladies' Home Journal, but I did a search and couldn't find it. It came to me in an email:

    >Subject: A Must Read
    >Date: Tue, 10 May 2005 15:12:33 EDT
    >
    >
    >This is soooo worth the time to read: THE SCHINDLER NO ONE KNEW
    >
    >Irena Sendler rescued 2,500 children from the Nazi death camps. Her story,
    >writes Marti Attoun in Ladies' Home Journal, was rescued by three Kansas
    >teens.
    >Irena Sendler keeps a photo of "her Kansas girls" on the bedside table in
    >her
    >nursing-home room in Warsaw, Poland. She rests easier now that her story is
    >in good hands.
    >
    >And her story is astounding, as awe-inspiring as that of Oskar Schindler,
    >whose courageous acts of Nazi resistance became a book and an Academy
    >Award-winning film. But unlike Schindler, who received international
    >acclaim, Sendler had
    >been a footnote in history for nearly 60 years. That all changed in
    >September 1999, when three teenagers in a small town in Kansas were looking
    >for a
    >topic for a history project and stumbled upon a short mention of Sendler in
    >an
    >article in a 5-year-old newsmagazine. As a Catholic social worker, the
    >article
    >said, Sendler had organized the rescue of 2,500 Jewish babies and children
    >from
    >the Nazi-controlled Warsaw ghetto in 1942 and 1943.
    >
    >"We thought it was a typo," recalls Elizabeth Cambers, now 18 and a college
    >freshman. "We thought it was supposed to say she rescued 250 children, not
    >2,500."
    >
    >In September 1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland, Sendler was a 29-year-old
    >social worker employed by Warsaw's social-welfare department. An only child,
    >she had been just 7 when her father, a Catholic doctor, contracted typhus
    >and
    >died after treating Jews during a 1917 typhus outbreak. But she never forgot
    >his
    >sacrifice. "I was taught that if a man is drowning, it is irrelevant what is
    >his religion or nationality," Sendler has said. "One must help him. It is a
    >need of the heart."
    >
    >In the fall of 1940, Sendler watched as the Nazis forced 350,000 Jews inside
    >
    >the Warsaw ghetto, a 16-square-block area that was walled off and guarded.
    >With each passing month of the war, the torment of the people locked inside
    >intensified. They were dying of starvation and disease while unknowingly
    >waiting
    >for the Nazis to herd them into freight cars that would ultimately take them
    >to
    >their deaths in the gas chambers.
    >
    >Sendler joined Zegota, the code name for the Council for Aid to Jews in
    >Occupied Poland, an underground network founded in December 1942 by
    >psychologist
    >Adolf Berman and six other prominent scholars, religious leaders, and social
    >activists. The secret organization, which forged thousands of birth
    >certificates
    >and other documents to give Jews safe Aryan identities, asked Sendler to
    >head
    >up their operation to smuggle Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto.
    >
    >But first she had to get inside. Because the Nazis were on guard against the
    >
    >spread of infections, they allowed the delivery of medicine inside the
    >Ghetto.
    >A Zegota member working inside the Polish disease department forged a permit
    >that allowed Sendler to work undercover as a nurse inside the ghetto. Her
    >code
    >name was Jolanta.
    >
    >With the help of 10 "messenger friends," as Sendler called her colleagues,
    >and dozens of volunteers, she organized the effort to sneak the children to
    >orphanages, convents, and private homes in the Warsaw region. Children who
    >were
    >old enough to talk were taught to rattle off Christian prayers and mimic
    >other
    >religious behavior (such as how to make the sign of the cross) so they could
    >live safely without arousing suspicion of their Jewish heritage.
    >
    >Sendler and Zegota devised several routes for smuggling children out of the
    >ghetto. Kids escaped on foot or in the arms of volunteers through sewer
    >pipes
    >or basements with underground passageways. Many also escaped through the
    >courthouse, which had entrances on both the ghetto side and Aryan side.
    >Other
    >methods were more inventive. For instance, a trolley driver and Zegota
    >member, when
    >crossing from the ghetto to the Aryan side, hid little ones in trunks,
    >suitcases, or sacks under his back-seat, where the Nazi guards could not
    >see. Another
    >supporter, an ambulance driver, kept his dog beside him in the front seat
    >and
    >trained him to bark to camouflage any cries or noises from the babies hidden
    >under stretchers in back. Sendler also arranged for babies and children to
    >be
    >sedated and
    >smuggled out with merchants in potato sacks, under their loads of goods.
    >Sometimes, she even sneaked sedated children out in body bags, telling the
    >guards
    >that they were dead.
    >
    >Day after day, for about 16 months, Sendler persuaded parents and
    >grandparents to hand over their babies and children, to give them a if
    >chance to live.
    >"There were terrible scenes," Sendler says. "One mother I wanted a child to
    >leave the ghetto while the father did not. The grandma wanted, the husband
    >did
    >not. They asked what was the guarantee? What kind of guarantee could I give
    >them?" She couldn't even guarantee that she could get past the guards.
    >
    >On slips of tissue paper, Sendler recorded the identity of every child she
    >rescued. Whenever possible, she wrote down the child's Jewish name as well
    >as
    >the child's new Christian name and new address. Sendler buried these names
    >in
    >jars under an apple tree in a friend's garden. After the war, Sendler hoped,
    >the
    >children would be located and their Jewish identities revealed to them.
    >
    >On Oct. 20, 1943, the Gestapo arrested Sendler. They had long suspected she
    >was running a smuggling operation, and one of her messengers had been caught
    >and tortured until she gave up Sendler's name and home address. The Gestapo
    >interrogated Sendler, demanding information about the identities of the
    >other
    >rescuers and the children in hiding. But she refused to talk, even when she
    >was
    >beaten until her legs and feet were broken. "I was quiet as a mouse,"
    >Sendler
    >has said. "I would have rather died than disclose anything about our
    >operations." She was then taken to Pawiak prison, where she was sentenced to
    >be executed.
    >
    >At the last minute, however, the woman who had rescued so many others was
    >herself rescued. On the day she was to be executed, Zegota paid a hefty
    >bribe to
    >a guard, who allowed Sendler to escape. The guard subsequently posted
    >Sendler's name on public bulletin boards as one of the executed,
    >essentially rendering her invisible to the Nazis. She then went into hiding
    >in Poland, just like the children she'd saved.
    >
    >When Poland was liberated a year and three months later, in January 1945,
    >Sendler returned to the friend's garden and dug up the jars. She turned over
    >the
    >rescued children's names to Zegota's Berman, and he and other members of the
    >group tried to locate the children's foster families. Sadly, most of the
    >children had no parents or grandparents to be found. Less than 1 percent of
    >the
    >Jews inside the ghetto survived the war, most having perished at the
    >Treblinka
    >death camp in northeast Poland. After the war, Sendler married, raised two
    >children of her own, and continued her career as a social worker in Warsaw.
    >The
    >beatings she had suffered at the hands of the Gestapo left her permanently
    >disabled, and she has had trouble walking ever since. But she never talked
    >openly
    >about her rescue work. Poland was under a communist regime, and the postwar
    >climate wasn't safe. For almost 60 years, her story was essentially lost to
    >history.
    >
    >Then, in March 2000, she received a letter from Elizabeth Cambers and two of
    >her classmates at Uniontown High School in Uniontown, Kan. Encouraged by
    >their
    >social studies teacher, the girls had selected Sendler as the subject of
    >their National History Day project, and though information about her was
    >scarce,
    >they had been able to write a 10-minute play, titled "Life in a Jar", that
    >had
    >already won first place at the state level of the national contest. "We
    >explained who we were and what we were doing," says Sabrina Coons, now 20
    >and a
    >student at Kansas State University. "We told her that we found her story
    >amazing."
    >
    >Sendler's response, handwritten in Polish, arrived in Kansas three weeks
    >later. "I am very eager to receive and read your play," Sendler wrote. In a
    >series
    >of letters, Sendler answered the students' questions, and slowly the details
    >of her remarkable story unfolded; an international friendship was forged.
    >
    >After an emotional performance of Life in a Jar at Uniontown High, the
    >students were invited to perform the play for church groups, nursing homes,
    >and
    >civic organizations throughout southeast Kansas. Through their
    >correspondence with
    >Sendler, the teens learned that she lived quite meagerly. So at each
    >performance, they set out a donation jar. Their first gift to Sendler was
    >$3, which
    >they told her to use for postage. "We found out later that she gave the $3
    >away
    >to a children's home," says Coons. "That's just how she is."
    >
    >Although the girls didn't win any awards when they traveled to Maryland in
    >June 2000 to compete in the national contest, their play gained national and
    >international attention, and the students have since given more than 100
    >performances of the play in eight different states. As a result, Sendler has
    >received
    >numerous awards for her courageous work. After learning she was to be given
    >a
    >$10,000 humanitarian award from the American Center of Polish Culture in
    >Washington, she wrote to her girls "My emotion is being shadowed by the fact
    >that
    >no one from the circle of my faithful coworkers, who constantly risked their
    >lives, could live long enough to enjoy all the honors that now are falling
    >upon
    >me.... I can't find the words to thank you, my dear girls.... Before the day
    >you have written the play "Life in a Jar" -- nobody in my own country and in
    >the whole world cared about my person and my work during the war ..." One
    >member
    >of a Kansas City audience was so profoundly moved by S
    >endler's
    >story that he raised money to send the play's three authors to Poland to
    >meet Sendler in May 2001.
    >
    >"It wasn't real until I actually met Irena," says Megan Stewart. "We all ran
    >up and hugged her. She wanted to just hold our hands and hear about our
    >lives." Cambers told Sendler, "I love you. You are my hero."
    >
    >Sendler, a 4-foot-11-inch woman who now uses a wheelchair, deflected the
    >girls' praise. "A hero is someone doing extraordinary things," she told
    >them..
    >"What I did was not extraordinary. It was a normal thing to do."
    >
    >From "The Woman Who Loved Children," Ladies' Home Journal
    >

    Unusually and exceedingly peculiar and altogether quite impossible to describe...



  2. #2

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    Great story. Thanks for sharing. I feel a bit teary eyed. It is great to hear about selfless acts that stem from a person willingness to help others, even at the risk of their own saftey. What a remarkable woman.
    Fratsor Sister - Delta Mu Chi Alpha

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