She may be less known than Oskar Schindler, but Rena Sendler, who died two days ago at the age on 98, was at least his equal in saving would-be victims from the Holocaust. The Age of Melbourne, Australia reports:
RENA Sendler, who is credited with having saved the lives of about 2500 Jewish children in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II and was tortured by the Gestapo, has died. She was 98.
By 1942, the Germans had herded about 500,000 Polish Jews into an area of about one square kilometre to await transportation to extermination camps. Starvation and disease, especially typhoid, were endemic.
In December that year, Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker in the city who had links with Zegota, the code name for the Council for Aid to Jews, took charge of its children's department. Wearing nurses' uniforms, she and a colleague, Irena Schultz, went into the ghetto with food, clothes and medicine, including a vaccine against typhoid. It soon became clear that many of the Jews would be sent to the Treblinka death camp, and Zegota decided to try to save as many children as possible.
Using the codename "Jolanta", and wearing a Star of David armband to identify herself with the Jewish population, Sendler became part of an escape network: one baby was spirited away in a mechanic's toolbox; some children were transported in coffins, suitcases and sacks; others escaped through the city's sewer system. An ambulance driver who smuggled infants under stretchers in the back of his van kept his dog on the seat beside him, having trained the animal to bark to mask any cries from his hidden passengers.
I mourn her passing, but am inspired by her example. She is in a better place now.
Steven Spielberg, take note.
Hat tip: John McMahon