Irena Sendler – The Woman who Saved the Lives of 2,500 Jewish Children During the Holocaust

Irena Sendler a Polish Social Worker’s achievements won her Righteous among Nations recognition. It is an inspirational story that is identical to miracles appearing in fantasies of children.  While the World War-2 witnessed a barbaric act of Nazi army on Jewish citizens, this social worker dared to face the situation with sheer braveness and saved lives of nearly 2,500 Jewish children is the pinnacle of service by any measure. The World War-2 witnessing barbaric Holocaust of Jews by herding nearly 50000 of them in a Warsaw Ghetto is the height of inhumanity that was rendered to Human, same World War witnessed a 29-year woman social worker rescuing Jewish children from the deadly ghetto to safer hands of nonbiological mothers in an open environment.


Irena’s Early Life

Irena Sendler was born on February 15, 1910, at Warsaw and spent her younger days at Otwock. She learned service motto in her early days from her parents. Her father Dr. Stanislaw Krzyzanowski was a physician who served low-income families of Jews that too his service to typhus infected citizens has been well documented in the history of Poland. Unfortunately, Irena lost her father at the age of seven but did not fail to imbibe the service mindset of her father. She has remembered the moral science lessons inculcated from parents in her famous quote—“Extend your help to a drowning person irrespective of his religion and nationality.”  Later she graduated from Warsaw University and took up the role of social worker and administrator at Warsaw. It was during this period Poland witnessed the massacre of Jews and Irena played a primary role in rescuing Jews children from the clutches of death.

The Inside Story of Rescue Operation

True to her upbringing and profession of a social worker, the invasion of Poland by Nazi army during world war-2 and setting up a Ghetto to torture Jews disturbed Irena. She mobilized a team of 25 members and started her ‘Operation’ to rescue the children and even infants using various methods like wrapping them up in Potato Sacks, Body Bags, Coffin, Stretchers and even using carpenter’s toolbox to hide babies and smuggle them out of the deadly ghetto. Small Kids who were able to comprehend Christian prayers were taught to recite them in the nearby church and from there they were escaped.


As Irena has later revealed in an interview, it was a hurricane task for her to win the confidence of parents in obliging to give away their kids with the hope of reuniting them after the war. Irena had meticulously planned and executed the rescue operation as a result of which she prepared a document using tissue papers to note down the details of children and their parents. She had placed these life-saving documents in a jar and buried it beneath an apple tree located in a friend’s garden. Though the Jar-of-Life was unearthed soon after the world war, Irena’s good work took sixty odd years to get revealed. Polish History was rewritten once the enormous contribution of Irena got noticed by the media.


Irena had the support of an Ambulance Driver and a Dog in this rescue operation. It is documented that whenever small kids used to cry, Irena used to beat up the dog and the child chaos was buried beneath the barking of a dog, and she used to escape with this camouflage. The usual trick employed was to strap up children beneath the stretchers used to carry outgoing patients. The entire operation had three set of people working for Irena; The first group objective was to escape the children from the Ghetto, the Second group was involved in finding appropriate homes for these kids, and the third group had to forge documents for these young escapees portraying them as Non-Jewish children.


The story of one of the child called Elzbieta is interesting.  She was a few months old baby when she was handed over to Irena.  She was wrapped up in a mechanic’s toolbox and escaped in a lorry by piling the box amongst bricks. Elzbieta who is alive even today quotes— “I have three mothers –  biological one, the Polish woman who brought her up and Irena, the mother who saved her from clutches of death.”

Torture imposed on Irena  

Though initially, Irena succeeded in escaping children from the clutches of Nazis, Many informers became villains of her life, and Nazi armed forces started suspecting her actions.

In October 1943, she was arrested and taken to the Pawiak prison in Warsaw, which was a concentration camp for Nazis. When she refused to obey the orders of interrogator her arms and legs were broken and was sentenced to death. Fortunately, the underground network became active, and by bribing the man appointed to execute her, she was rescued. She spent the rest of war days in hiding and as soon as it ended, she handed over the tissue list of children preserved in a glass jar to Jewish representatives.


Yes, Irena Sendler is an actual mother, whom the entire world should remember, and she has been awarded various recognitions, important among them is Righteous among Nations recognition. It will be appropriate to close this post by quoting her opinion about world war-2, which goes like this—“After World War II, it seemed that humanity understood something, and nothing like that would happen again.” And “The world can be better if there’s love, tolerance, and humility.


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