Poland honors woman who saved Jewish children in Holocaust

Irena Sendler, 97, hailed as hero for risking life as part of Polish underground Council for Assisting Jews.

holocaust 88 (photo credit: )
holocaust 88
(photo credit: )
Poland's parliament on Wednesday honored Irena Sendler, a 97-year-old credited with saving 2,500 Jews during the Holocaust, at a ceremony during which the country's president said she deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. At a special session, members of the Senate - the upper house of parliament - unanimously approved a resolution honoring Sendler and the Polish underground Council for Assisting Jews. The group's members, mostly Roman Catholics, risked their own lives to save Jews from the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland. The resolution honored Sendler, who lives in a nursing home in Warsaw and was too frail to attend the session, for organizing the "rescue of the most defenseless victims of the Nazi ideology: the Jewish children." President Lech Kacyzinski said in an address to senators that Sendler is a "great hero who can be justly named for the Nobel Peace Prize." Sendler led a team of some 20 helpers who smuggled Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto to safety between 1940 and 1943, placing them in Polish families, convents or orphanages. She wrote the children's names on slips of paper and buried them in jars in a neighbor's yard as a record that could help locate the children's parents after the war. The Nazis arrested her in 1943, but she refused - despite being tortured repeatedly - to reveal their names. Anyone caught helping Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland risked being summarily shot, along with family members. In 1965, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial awarded Sendler one of its first medals given to people who saved Jews, the so-called "Righteous Among the Nations." She was given the honor in 1983 after Poland's communist authorities finally agreed to allow her to travel abroad. "I think she's a great lady, very courageous, and I think she's a model for the whole international community," Israel's ambassador to Poland, David Peleg, said after the ceremony. "I think that her courage is a very special one."