Believe it or not, Irena Sendler's story was largely unknown until 1999, when Norman Conrad, a high school teacher in Uniontown, Kansas, had his students study her. The students produced a play about her called "Life in a Jar," and it was a great success. They staged it over 200 times in the United States and overseas! So who was Irena Sendler?


She moved to Warsaw, Poland, just before World War II. After the 1939 German invasion, she and her co-workers created over 3,000 fake documents to help Jewish families. As an employee of the Social Welfare Department, she was permitted to enter the Warsaw Jewish ghetto to check for signs of typhus, which Nazi's feared would spread beyond the ghetto. Under the pretext of conducting sanitary inspections, she and her co-workers smuggled out 2,500 babies and small children, sometimes hiding them in suitcases and packages. (She personally smuggled out at least 400 children.) Each was given a fake Christian name; adopted by a Christian family, and taught Christian prayers, in case they were tested. But she kept careful records of their given names and current locations, hoping to return them to their original families after the war. In 1943 she was arrested and severely tortured for helping Jews. When she refused to betray her children she was sentenced to death, but escaped execution by bribing her guards. Meanwhile, the parents of most of the children she saved were killed in the Treblinka extermination camp. After the war, Russian secret police brutally interrogated her, since she had been part of Poland's resistance organization. But she survived, living in Warsaw until her death in 2008 at age 98. In 1991, her heroism was finally recognized and she became an Honorary Citizen of Israel. Here she is in 2005, with some of the "children" she saved from certain death.

                                                                                                                              Marinsz Kubik