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Irena Sendler the Unknown Holocaust Hero

February 26, 2013

While the story of Oskar Schindler, who saved 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust, is well-known, the narrative of Irena Sendler is only now coming to light.

The activities of Sendler, the remarkable diminutive Polish social worker who managed to smuggle over 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto is being documented, explored and publicized at the LowellMilken Center Project where students create written and oral projects which honor “unsung heroes.”

Irena Sendler’s story is extraordinary, even more so in that it was almost relegated to the back pages of history until a group of Kansas high school students began to study the episode. Irena Sendler, a member of the Polish Resistance in Nazi-occupied Poland, foresaw the fate of the Jews who were interned in the Warsaw Ghetto.

She made daily forays into the ghetto and managed to persuade thousands of Jewish parents to allow her to smuggle their babies and toddlers out of the ghetto. Using a variety of methods she conveyed them to the Polish side of Warsaw and then placed them with adoptive families for safekeeping.

Sendler maintained a “list” of all of the children, noting their real names and the families with which they had been placed. She buried her list in glass jars in her yard so that, after the war, the children could be returned to their families or, at the very least, their communities.

Although Sendler was captured by the Nazis, she didn’t reveal any information about the children’s whereabouts. The Polish underground was able to secure her release and Sendler herself was forced into hiding.

The Center, sponsored by Jewish businessman Lowell Milken helped produce “Lifein a Jar” which has been presented as a play to thousands of audiences worldwide. A large amount of material has been compiled into a written documentary and the story has been reported by news agencies throughout the world, ensuring that the account will be preserved for the generations to come.


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