IRENA'S CHILDREN : THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF THE WOMAN WHO SAVED 2,500 CHILDREN FROM THE WARSAW GHETTO
by Tilar J. Mazzeo
She is called "the female Oskar Schindler only because they both saved people. Schindler saved 1,200 but Irena Sendler (in Polish her name was Irena Sendlerowa) saved 2,500 very young children. Today, in Poland, she is considered to be a heroine. Irena had an aversion to that word. She did not consider what she did to be extraordinary; just a normal duty.
As a social worker in 1942, Irena was allowed to go into the Warsaw ghetto using a cover as a public health specialist. She went from door to door of the Jewish families who were trapped and asked the parents if they would entrust her with their children. Soon enough Irena began smuggling infants out of the walled city in suitcases, wooden boxes, and under overcoats right past the noses of German guards. With toddlers and schoolchildren she took them through the filthy and extremely dangerous sewers.
Irena organized a huge network of dozens of men and women who quietly joined her in the rescue. They risked their lives by doing so. If they were caught by helping a Jew, their entire family would be executed. According to Irena, not one ever refused to take in and hide a Jewish child. Her success would never have been possible without these courageous and dedicated people.
For years I have heard about Irena Sendler through e-mail messages describing her indomitable spirit in whisking children out of the Warsaw ghetto and wanting to know and understand the kind of person she was. What drove her? Luckily for us, Tilar J. Mazzeo has written one tremendous book on her. Mazzeo has written many other bestsellers and I have read just about all of them, one of which The Secret of Chanel No. 5 is reviewed in this blog. There have been endless amounts of stories that have come out about the Holocaust and if you think they are all the same, then you're mistaken. Irena's Children is unlike anything that I have read before on this topic. I don't believe there is any other woman who accomplished what she did. Her selflessness, compassion, strength, and daring is awe-inspiring. Also to be commended is her network of good, upstanding Poles. It's probably the first time that I have read that not all of the Poles were bad (traitorous) as countless books have depicted them being before. So, even though Irena Sendler didn't like to be called a heroine, she definitely deserves it. Her wonderful, caring helpers should also be named as heroines/heroes. Mazzeo definitely knows how to tell an incredible story and she did justice with this one.
Very highly recommended.