Monday, August 1, 2011
The hotel was right next to Radom's Jewish ghetto, and one day Irene witnessed a horrible sight. Jews in the ghetto -- including pregnant women and children -- were screaming, trying to run from SS officers who were chasing them down, trying to kill them. Then Irene saw one officer catch a mother holding an infant. With one movement of his hand, he pulled the baby away from its mother and threw it to the ground on its head.
Irene was horrified. She had been raised in a very sheltered, religious home and couldn't understand how God could allow such terrible things to occur. She wanted to turn her back on God, to leave her faith. But then she realized something; God gives everyone a free will, to choose either good or evil. The Nazis had obviously chosen evil. What would her choice be?
Irene already knew the punishment for helping Jews. She had seen and heard the warning many times, on posters and loudspeakers broadcasting in the street: "Whoever helps a Jew shall be punished by death." Irene made a decision. She told God that if she had an opportunity to help the Jews, she would, although it meant risking her own life . . .
Excerpt from "Irene Gut: Only a Young Girl" from Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue.
...Even as she was imploring children to memorize their new Christian identities so that their lives could be saved, Irena was also preserving each child's true identity. She made up a list on small strips of tissue paper that contained each child's false Polish name, true Jewish name, and the location where he or she was currently living. She placed two identical lists into two separate bottles and buried them under an apple tree in a friend's yard. She had to be extremely careful in hiding the lists; if the Nazis found them, they would be able to track down every single child Irena had saved.
On October 20, 1943, Irena was having a party to celebrate her name day (the date she had been baptized in the Catholic Church). She set aside the identification lists that she had been updating. Her friend, an associate in the work to hide Jewish children, stayed overnight.
Suddenly, in the early morning hours, there was a horrendous pounding at the door. It was the Gestapo!
Excerpt from "Irena Sendler: Life in a Jar" from Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue.