Irena Sendler — credited with saving some 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto — died May 12 in a Warsaw hospital. She was 98.
In 1965, Sendler became one of the first so-called Righteous Gentiles honored by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem for wartime heroics.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski expressed “great regret” over Sendler’s death, calling her “extremely brave” and “an exceptional person.” In recent years, Kaczynski had spearheaded a campaign to put Sendler’s name forward as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. Warsaw’s Jews were forced into a walled-off ghetto.
Seeking to save the ghetto’s children, Sendler masterminded risky rescue operations. Under the pretext of inspecting sanitary conditions during a typhoid outbreak, she and her assistants ventured inside the ghetto — and smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and trams, sometimes wrapped up as packages.
Records show that Sendler’s team of about 20 people saved nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto between October 1940 and April 1943. — ap