Acts of Impact

Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Holocaust

March 15, 2023 Nicholas Hill Season 2 Episode 2
Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Holocaust
Acts of Impact
More Info
Acts of Impact
Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Holocaust
Mar 15, 2023 Season 2 Episode 2
Nicholas Hill

On today's episode, we'll explore the incredible story of Irena Sendler, the Polish social worker who risked everything to save 2,500 Jewish children during the Holocaust. She worked with secret organizations, rose to the top of the Gestapo's most wanted list, and even withstood torture at the infamous Pawiak prison. Her story was buried for 60 years, until three Kansas teens uncovered her legacy in 2004. 

For this episode, I had the privilege of interviewing Jack Mayer, Author of 'Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project'.  We'll discuss how Jack learned of Irena and became involved, the powerful stories Jack encountered during his interviews with her and the children she rescued, and the importance of Irena's story to changing the national conversation in Poland.

Throughout today's narration, you'll also hear eyewitness accounts from Holocaust survivors that have been given in interviews since the tragedy. 

I hope you enjoy today's episode. 

To purchase 'Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project', visit:

To learn more about the 'Life in a Jar' play and foundation, visit:

To learn more about the show, view transcripts, and more visit:

Special thanks to Jack for his time and insight. 
Voiceover acting by Quentin Vo.
Music by Alex Grohls.

Show Notes Transcript

On today's episode, we'll explore the incredible story of Irena Sendler, the Polish social worker who risked everything to save 2,500 Jewish children during the Holocaust. She worked with secret organizations, rose to the top of the Gestapo's most wanted list, and even withstood torture at the infamous Pawiak prison. Her story was buried for 60 years, until three Kansas teens uncovered her legacy in 2004. 

For this episode, I had the privilege of interviewing Jack Mayer, Author of 'Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project'.  We'll discuss how Jack learned of Irena and became involved, the powerful stories Jack encountered during his interviews with her and the children she rescued, and the importance of Irena's story to changing the national conversation in Poland.

Throughout today's narration, you'll also hear eyewitness accounts from Holocaust survivors that have been given in interviews since the tragedy. 

I hope you enjoy today's episode. 

To purchase 'Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project', visit:

To learn more about the 'Life in a Jar' play and foundation, visit:

To learn more about the show, view transcripts, and more visit:

Special thanks to Jack for his time and insight. 
Voiceover acting by Quentin Vo.
Music by Alex Grohls.

Nicholas Hill  0:00  
On January 30 1933, the Nazi Party takes power in Germany and Adolf Hitler is appointed chancellor. It

Media  0:09  
Hitler gets a tremendous ovation when leaving for his first Cabinet meeting, and another milestone is marked in Germany's political history.

Nicholas Hill  0:18  
This would mark the beginning of a period known as the Holocaust, the systematic persecution and genocide of the Jewish people. For the next 12 years, an estimated 6 million Jews would be murdered and what would later be known as the final solution. As one method of controlling the Jewish population, the Nazis established 400 confined neighborhoods, called ghettos, and forced all Jewish people to move into them. Once there they were subjected to forced labor disease, starvation, and deported to concentration camps and death. The largest of these ghettos containing over half a million Jewish people was the Warsaw ghetto in Poland. Almost every single Jew in the Warsaw ghetto was killed by the Nazis during the war, parents and children alike. But not every child met this fate. A Polish social worker saved the lives of over 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. She worked with a secret network of activists to smuggle these children out, provide them with false identities, connect them with safe places to live and raise money for their ongoing support. She kept meticulous records of their real identities so they can be reunited with their families after the war. She personally snuck children out in medical bags, carpenters, boxes, ambulances, even coffins and led them to safety through secret tunnels, sewer lines holes in the wall anyway she could. She would make it to the top of the Gestapo 's most wanted list. And her work would be buried for 60 years forgotten until three Kansas students would bring it back to the light. Her name is Irena Sendler and today, we tell her story. You're listening to acts of impact. I'm your host, Nicholas Hill. Let's get started.

I learned about IRENA through an incredible book called Life in a Jar. And to truly understand her impact, I had the privilege of interviewing the author of that book. His name is Jack Mayer, a child of Holocaust survivors himself, Jack came across IRENA story while working as a pediatrician in Vermont.

Jack Mayer  2:49  
 So I'm in my pediatric practice in Vermont. And this calendar from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum comes across my desk and I just quickly thumb through it and I get to this page and that's Irena, it's IRENA when she's 29 years old. But I quickly read the brief paragraph that the Holocaust museum had about her. And it said that she had rescued 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. And I said to myself, what I never heard of her, who is this person, Oskar Schindler rescued 1100 Jews from a concentration camp in Poland. Everybody knows Oskar Schindler, the iconic rescuer, but all of a sudden, this person came into my knowledge. And so I kept this, I put it in my interesting folders file that I keep in my desk. And it sat there for three years, until I came into my office one night to see a sick child and on my desk is open the Ladies Home Journal. And I don't keep the Ladies Home Journal in my waiting room. And someone had put it there and opened it for me to see this article about these three girls from Kansas, who discovered Irina's story, and then develop this National History Day project about what she had done. So this was 2004. I called the teacher of these girls to get more information about Irena, and when I talked to him, he said, It's serendipitous, you should call because we are looking for someone to write the story about not only IRENA and her wartime activities, but the girls from Kansas and their contemporary story about their interaction with Irena, I really hadn't thought that I'm not going to jump into this project. I'm a full time pediatrician is another full time job. But I was so intrigued by the story and it was not just Irina's wartime history that intrigued me. But it was the contemporary story of these three Kansas teenagers that really hooked me they made IRENA into a Polish national hero and It's really the power of one person to change the world. And in Irina's case, she changed the world dramatically with what she did. But each of these three Kansas girls also is an agent of change. And just the fact of their doing this project really changed the world.

Nicholas Hill  5:19  
So who was Irena Sendler? Irena was born in 1910, near Warsaw, Poland. During the First World War, her mom taught at an underground school, and her dad was the only doctor to treat poor Jewish patients. Her parents taught her she must always stand up for those treated unjustly. In high school, Irena sees a Jewish classmate named rich Ella being attacked by two girls in the park, Irena drops her lunch leaps on the bigger girls back and punches blindly at her head. Now, unfortunately, Irena is a little outmatched. The two girls overpower her and knock her unconscious. From then on children in school begin calling her a Jew slave. In her senior year, Irena writes a paper called repairing Poland. She predicts that the scapegoating of minorities and Jews by the nationalist right would lead to xenophobia, instability and self destruction. Her teacher gives her an F, the headmaster has to step in to raise it to a B. Next, Irina attends University of Warsaw, where anti Jewish sentiment has reached a fever pitch. violence against Jews is rampant so the college declares that Jews should sit on separate benches and lecture halls. To prevent further hostility. Irena walks into her lecture hall sits on the Jewish bench and tells her professors today I am a Jew. She's immediately suspended and would not be allowed back to the school for six years. Irena graduates from the University of Warsaw in 1932, with a degree in social work, and she starts working for the city as a social worker. She sees that new welfare rules are especially restrictive for Jews. So she decides to do something to help. She finds out that her supervisor, a different IRENA named IRENA Schultz is willing to be her partner in crime. And I mean that literally, they start regularly committing welfare fraud for the benefit of their clients. They're purposefully making mistakes on forms changing birthdays, housing sizes, any detail they can to increase the amount of benefits for Jews and Gypsies. By the fall of 1938, waves of Jewish refugees are showing up in Warsaw. The two arenas are working 12 hour days building partnerships with food warehouse workers to get extra food. They find out where to get forged identity cards and documents, and they personally carry food, money and medicine into Jewish districts. In the winter of 1938, the Polish government declares that all Jewish welfare workers employed by the state are to be terminated. This is just the beginning. And in 1939, everything changes.

Media  8:13  
This is the national program from London, Germany has invaded Poland and has bombed many times. hostilities have been going on since earlier this morning, along the frontiers between Germany and Poland. It was at about six o'clock this morning that the first full scale attacks began. It was earlier reported that in a big attack about nine o'clock, Warsaw itself was bought.

I told the foreign ambassador three weeks ago that the situation continued as it was if constants were persecuted and what they were attempted by Poland was ruined dances economically this situation could not be tolerated. I therefore resolved to speak to Poland in the same language in which polling has addressed us for such a long time. From now on, mom will be met by bomb.

President Schinsky of Poland broadcast the following proclamation to the Polish nation today. In this historic moment, I appeal to all our citizens with the deep conviction that the nation will in defense of its freedom, rally around the supreme commander of the armed forces and give a proper reply to the German aggressor, as it has so often done in the past and take up the struggle until the victory is complete.

Nicholas Hill  9:30  
On September 1 1939, Irena is woken up by explosions. The radios reporting that war has begun. There's an air raid on the city and she rushes to the nearest bomb shelter near her social welfare office. 41 German bombers take part in the raid, two are shot down and 100 Warsaw civilians are killed. The mayor asks the citizens to fight and across the city men young and old take up arms. They do trenches and erecting barricades, martial law is declared and the Germans advanced and armored vehicles and tanks. At one point Polish fighters form a human chain and begin placing everything from every house into the street as a last ditch attempt at a barricade, but none of it works. Air raids hammer the city day and night. Electricity becomes a thing of the past and fires burn throughout the city. By the end of the first week, German artillery is 20 miles out, shells begin to hit Warsaw. None of this stops Irena. She continues to walk daily to her office and do her job as senior Benefits Administrator. Refugees are streaming into Warsaw from across Poland. They're infested with lice, malnourished, sick and in need of shelter and food. They think going to Warsaw will bring them safety and they're wrong. Irina's Boston sir a secret folder. It contains blank birth, baptismal and marriage certificates. Irena is asked to use these certificates to do some creative social work. The bosses assistant tells Irena, we can get you more of these and walks away. Irena sees this as an invitation to get more bold and she does. She identifies trusted social workers and each of the 10 district offices, each one willing to alter documents or provide fraudulent once the 10 of them began building a network of Polish citizens willing to temporarily house refugees. Only the two IRENA has know the identity of these 10 people to everyone else. They're simply known as the emergency care service. By mid September, Irena is forging her boss's signature for emergency food vouchers and money and dispersing them across the city. But the bombardment is relentless. Buildings are being destroyed. Hundreds of people are dying every day. And on September 27 1939, Warsaw surrenders to the Germans. 140,000 Polish troops are taken prisoner survivor Joseph Greenblatt recalls being overrun by the German army.

Joseph Greenblatt  12:17  
The wall broke out. We were about three kilometers already from the German border, because we moved up. But then we still retreat started right away. We convinced them abandonment. At the daytime we had the German air force, and they were shooting at us. The fields were on fire. And that's when we were surrounded and taking place a war.

Nicholas Hill  12:40  
Irena begins coordinating with a woman named Emma recommen, a former coworker who was fired for being Jewish ever works at a Jewish self help charity. Their goal is to feed the poor at least one meal a day. Irena starts taking food, medicine and bandages over to Evah to distribute. She's also secretly misappropriating general funds, taking the money, literally stitching it into the linings of the bags, and bringing it along with the food. The government of Poland flees the country. And the President heads to Romania. Of course they don't call it fleeing. They say that they're tactically relocating. Now the German bombing had selectively targeted the Jewish district, which now had twice as many destroyed buildings as everywhere else. The radios cut off, the mayor of Warsaw surrenders and gives his authority to a German officer, who immediately begins posting a series of decrees around the city

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  13:42  
decree September 28 1939. All poles are guaranteed their rights as citizens under the care of the German Reich. Jews will be guaranteed their rights including property and security.

Nicholas Hill  13:57  
Notice how they say Jews will be guaranteed rights including property. Here's the decree from the very next day.

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  14:06  
Decree September 29 1939. All Jewish businesses must be transformed to German trustees who must not retain Jewish employees. Pension Rights for Jews are revoked. Jewish administrators who run apartment buildings owned by Jews are removed from their posts. Jewish landlords are deprived of their properties. New enterprise licenses can only be issued to those who can prove pure Aryan extraction. Jewish pedalers may only appear on streets populated by Jews.

Nicholas Hill  14:39  
The next one, though, is the most menacing

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  14:42  
decree September 3019 39. A complete census is to be taken immediately.

Nicholas Hill  14:50  
See, it turns out the first step to eradicating a race of people is to take a census of where and who they are. Then comes The curfew

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  15:01  
decree October 4 1939. A dusk to dawn curfew is established for all. Violators will be shot.

Nicholas Hill  15:11  
On October 5, Adolf Hitler visits Warsaw to celebrate his victory. He orders the new German administration to begin giving out warm soup and bread. At the exact same time they start building barbed wire fences around the Jewish streets.

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  15:28  
Decree October 12 1939. Jewish deposits and bank accounts are frozen. It is illegal to pay a Jew more than 500 is allottee. Banks are forbidden to pay out more than 200 50s allottee. To a Jew. It is forbidden for Jewish families to hold more than 2000s allottee in cash.

Nicholas Hill  15:47  
The entire Jewish district is decreed a quarantine area signs appeared overnight, attention epidemic area entry forbidden

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  15:58  
decree October 18 1939. Social welfare benefits or services may not be awarded to any Jew.

Nicholas Hill  16:06  
They cut off welfare benefits at a time when Warsaw is fully encumbered by what citizens would call the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Overcrowding, poor sanitation, rodents and malnutrition.

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  16:20  
Decree October 26 1939. Jewish residents in the general government are obliged to work with this aim in mind, Jews will be concentrated in forced labor teams.

Nicholas Hill  16:33  
Now the Jewish are working for the benefit of the German war economy. carbide lamps become the standard light source hand pumps become the primary source of water

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  16:44  
decree October 2019 39. All radios must be surrendered to the authorities immediately. Possession of a radio receiver is punishable by imprisonment. Possession of a radio transmitter is punishable by death.

Nicholas Hill  16:58  
This latest decree was meant to limit the amount of underground news spreading throughout Jewish communities. Meanwhile, the Germans propaganda newspaper the new courier of Warsaw is printing daily stories about the sinful and criminal ways of the Jew. By the end of October, the city enters into a new normal, the roads become navigable again, commerce resumes, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants reopen

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  17:27  
decree October 2519 39. There will be a mandatory census of Jewish inhabitants of Warsaw on Saturday, October 28. The Union rat is required to carry out the census.

Nicholas Hill  17:41  
The youth and rot were councils established by German authorities during the Holocaust that were made up of Jewish people think about this. prominent members of the Jewish community are appointed by the Germans to serve as liaisons between the Jewish people being persecuted and the German authorities persecuting them. They had to implement German policies against their own people. They had to choose what Jews would be deported to concentration camps. In November, Irena hears of a new source of funding. A Jewish friend from her days in university, Stefan tells her about a man named Emanuel Ringo bloom. Ringo Bloom is a Jewish social activist who lives in Warsaw. Now he's doing his own secret work documenting the lives of Jews in the ghetto. He establishes a clandestine organization called the O neg Shabbat, which collects diaries, essays and letters from residents describing their experiences in the ghetto. He buries these documents in hidden locations around the ghetto, and it's actually discovered after the war ended. The annek Shabbat archive is considered one of the most important primary sources on the Holocaust today,

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  18:58  
decree November 2319 39. All Jews and juicers 10 years of age and over are obliged to wear a four inch armband and white with a blue star of Zion on the right sleeve of their inner and outer clothing as of one December 1939. These armbands are to be secured and also provided with the relevant sign by the Jews and juicers themselves.

Nicholas Hill  19:22  
These armbands would later become an infamous symbol of oppression. The propaganda newspaper prints an interview with Dr. Ludwig Fischer, who explains one purpose of the armbands is to tell from a distance whether a woman flirting with a German was a Jewess to prevent him from being beguiled by the seductive wiles of Jewish women into sinning against the purity of the race.

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  19:50  
Decree November 13 1939. Every Jewish shop must display a large star of Zion at the entrance

Nicholas Hill  19:58  
in December food rationing begins. Germans receive 2613 calories per day, Jews receive 184 184 calories per day. It is literally impossible to stay alive without buying black market or stolen food, which costs 10 times the market price. Here's survivor Amick Adler on rationing,

Amek Adler  20:27  
I believe we used to give about 180 to 200 calories of food per day per person. I was exposed as an 11 year old boy, two people lying on the seat dying. And I saw Wigan and one man was pushing one was pulling and double collecting the corpses.

Nicholas Hill  20:48  
At this point, the decrees are relentless, with more restrictions coming out every single day.

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  20:54  
Anyone founds buying bread at prices higher than the pre war price is liable to be executed. Jews are forbidden to enter the central post office. Every loan and mortgage establishment owned by Jews must appoint an Aryan Commissioner. All Jewish schools are closed. Jewish hospital care may not be given by an earring institution or hospital to any Jew Jewish lawyers are forbidden to engage in the practice of law. Prayer in synagogues is forbidden.

Nicholas Hill  21:23  
That last decree about prayer being forbidden that came out on December 22. The first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish people attempt to celebrate Irina's friend ever says that their candles are lights in the darkness, like the miracle of the Maccabees. As the year turns to 1940, an epidemic actually does start. This is when the first cases of typhus appear. Here's an account from Dr. Joe Schwartz

Dr. Joe Schwarcz  21:54  
during the Second World War. The Germans were bent on exterminating the Jews. And they started the rumor that Jews were vectors for typhus. typhus is a terrible disease which is carried by body lice. It's actually a bacterial disease, and the lice transmit these bacteria to Nazi squeezed 450,000 Jews into an area roughly the size of Central Park in New York. Tremendously dense. And those are exactly the kinds of conditions that can give rise to typhus. Because of the body lice infestation,

Nicholas Hill  22:31  
typhus will become a leading cause of death in ghettos and concentration camps, and in fact, would cause the death of another infamous person,

Dr. Joe Schwarcz  22:41  
of course, was another outbreak of typhus. Indeed, and Frank died from Pipers in Bergen Belsen in 1945.

Nicholas Hill  22:50  
The Germans use the typhus outbreak to take away religious freedoms

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  22:54  
decree January 2019 40, as a public health measure, to stem the Jewish epidemic of typhus, all synagogues, yeshivas, study houses and ritual baths are closed. public prayer is forbidden.

Nicholas Hill  23:12  
Irena remembers her father contracting typhus while treating the Jewish, he told her if you see someone drowning, you must rescue them, even if you cannot swim. Now, I don't actually recommend doing that, by the way, but I understand the sentiment helping people even at great personal risk is worth the cost. And with every German escalation against the Jews, Irena escalated her own support. She gets her hand on the identity cards of Polish citizens who died in the war, but whose death hasn't yet been entered into parish records. She works with EVO to assign Polish identities to Jews, which gives them access to full welfare benefits and Aryan ration cards. This is a serious escalation. If either woman had been caught with these documents, it would have been certain death. Before one of her meetings with IRENA ever experiences her own story of humiliation, she seized by Germans for no reason at all. She's forced to strip and clean toilets before being pushed back out onto the streets. After hearing about this, Irena gets even bolder. She meets her co workers in secret and develops a plan to distribute housing benefits that are meant for Polish citizens to Jews. Here's how it works. She creates a fake address within a large building tended by a landlord. She bribes that landlord to say the address exists. If a German tries to visit the building to see that the address is real. She uses falsified medical reports that claim the residents have tuberculosis. See the Germans are terrified of tuberculosis, so they never visit. This is coordinated is highly illegal activity. And IRENA is asking her coworkers to formally agreed to it. To do so is punishable by execution. They unanimously agree. Here's a reign as close personal friend, and Holocaust survivor, Lily Pullman. On this moment,

Lili Pohlmann  25:21  
she contacted 10 of her closest friends. She asked him to come. And she wanted to talk to them and ask whether they would be willing to do it and if anybody thinks they can't for any reason, or that this is too much for them, or would they please say so? Because there is no shame in saying no, not me. I can't do too frightened, whatever. That's understandable, but those who think they can do it with me. You do it with me. On my own, I cannot do it.

Nicholas Hill  25:59  
The typhus epidemic is reporting more than 500 cases per month, and IRENA receives a phone call. It's from a doctor named Dr. Julius Makowski. The doctor describes upcoming quarantines that will cause 20,000 Jews to be isolated without food for three weeks. He issues her and the other IRENA medical passes to enter the quarantine area. Irena now going by codename Yolanda calls her social networks and tells them to prepare procedure number five. They all coordinate bags of grain flour, root vegetables and false documents. They deliver these to the quarantine area disguised under dressings, bandages and sheets. Irena has become a master at gaining information just in time. She knows which cafes in the Jewish district are the right place to make a deal or hear gossip. Germans began arresting Jews in raids they call auctions. So IRENA start securing new identities to any Jew wanted by German authorities. She also secures temporary housing away from where the actions are predicted to take place.

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  27:12  
Decree, October 1019 40. Jews must step aside and make way before every German both soldier and civil servant in uniform until the German leaves the sidewalk. Caps and hats of any kind must be removed in deference to and respect for the uniform.

Nicholas Hill  27:30  
Holocaust survivor a mech Adler recalls this last decree in his interviews

Amek Adler  27:35  
below was if you walk on the street and a German soldier and a uniform comes across, you stepped on the sidewalk, they're gonna take your head off and let them pass. And if you're not, then he can do what he wants to you on the spot. And I didn't take my hat off to a big soldier must have been about six feet. He grabbed me by the lapels and puts me against the wall start banging at me until I was conscious. I last conscious I sunk down like a sack of potatoes. And then he walked away from me. I am wearing a hat in the winter since

Nicholas Hill  28:10  
but I'm at Adler wasn't always so easy to take down. Here he is describing another altercation.

Amek Adler  28:17  
One incident was I was walking down the street with a friend of mine who was a little bit shorter. And a CT again, which is a teenage between 13 and 16. And they were thinking that we got gifts to hurt and hit my friend. And I got so upset and I hit them back. I hit them back so hard. He lost his balance and fell on the asphalt. I jumped on his torso, and I banged his head against the asphalt. And if the bystanders, Jewish people didn't turn me away, I probably would have killed him. That's how I met I got

Nicholas Hill  28:54  
finally on October 12 1940, the Germans issued the decree that forced all Jews to permanently move into the Warsaw Ghetto. They chose Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, a day for confession, atonement, and redemption. to issue the following

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  29:15  
decree Warsaw October 12 1940. All Jews living outside the predominantly Jewish district must prepare to leave their homes and move to the designated Jewish area. Only such belongings as can be moved by hand or cart can be taken. Everything else is to be left behind.

Nicholas Hill  29:34  
A wall 11 miles long 10 feet high and topped with shards of broken glass is built in the city. Irena witnesses a mournful crowd of Jews lined up with only the belongings they could carry. Marching over the bridges across the Vistula they forced over 400,000 Jews into 16 square blocks. Survivors Lucia hybrid field and George Carson outski. Recall this moment,

Lucia Haberfeld  30:04  
winter of 1979 was a very severe winter was very cold and my parents decided that an eight year old child and see your child is too young to escape and to go through hardships. So we say in words shall waiting for the spring. But unfortunately, by the time Spring came, the Warsaw ghetto was created and we were headed into the ghetto.

George Grojnowski  30:31  
One day eight I knocked on our door and told us to take what as much luggage as we can carry. So mom and dad and myself or my little sister, by that time, I was already 13. And my sister was three were put into one street, created as a ghetto. So we had one room, and in that room we had to cook, to wash, to entertain, to do all our activities.

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  31:04  
Decree Warsaw, November 15 1940. The Jewish district is sealed.

Nicholas Hill  31:11  
Irina's network starts to expand with more couriers mostly teenage girls. She starts literally receiving supplies from the sky. Parachute drops from the London government in exile. As the last brick is being cemented into the ghetto. Irena is coordinating forgeries, safe houses food and medicine

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  31:33  
decree. Warsaw social workers are forbidden the right to enter the Jewish district for any reason, social welfare benefits for Jews are forbidden.

Nicholas Hill  31:42  
All aid to the ghetto is cut off, but Dr. Mayakovsky and the Reina find a loophole. As a doctor he issues her an epidemic control pass, and she begins to enter the ghetto in a nurse's uniform. Under the guise of controlling the spread of typhus. Irena starts wearing multiple layers of clothing. she sews money and forged documents into them and leaves them behind for those in need. Every room in the ghetto has seven to eight people sleeping in it. German start plastering the slogan Jews equal lice equal typhus around the city. The Jews are relying completely on the black market for survival. Any Jew following the law is dead. Young children who are fast and fearless sneak across the wall beg for food on the Aryan side and sneak back in. People begin to marry Jews working in factories just for the extra rations. Survivor Lucia Haberfield remembers the emotions of being a child during this time.

Lucia Haberfeld  32:47  
My very first memory that comes to mind is fear. I have got a terrible fear in me. And the fear stays with me all my life. And the fear was of the Germans every time I show the gentleman in the ghetto, I was trembling from fear.

Nicholas Hill  33:03  
Irina's network now includes electricians, plumbers, ambulance drivers, even guards. There's a guard named Camille who wanted to marry Irina's friend ever. Anytime IRENA was stopped on her way into the ghetto, she would use anger to prove her confidence. Her grandfather had once told her fear makes you weak. Anger makes you strong. This, by the way, is another phrase that I do not recommend living by. But in this exact case, it seemed to work. All of this went on for the next year. Then in October of 1941, the Germans begin to shrink the ghetto. German soldiers would bring their wives to take photographs, and show them just how far the Jew had sunk

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  33:50  
decree. Warsaw, the Jewish district post office is forbidden to handle foreign mail. parcels from neutral countries will no longer be delivered in the Jewish district.

Nicholas Hill  34:00  
There are now 4000 cases of typhus daily child beggars begin to die in the streets. Their bodies are covered with newspaper

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  34:11  
decree, Warsaw. Oh, all electric streetcar lines in the Jewish district are abolished. Only horsedrawn cone Heller wagons may be used in the Jewish district.

Nicholas Hill  34:22  
Citizens of the Jewish ghetto begin being interrogated by the Gestapo, the secret State Police of Nazi Germany, many of them never come back. And the ones who do are always under suspicion of having told on someone else,

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  34:37  
decree, Nov. 1019 41. A Jew who will leave without proper authorization, a city quarter to which he was assigned will be punished by death. The same punishment will be applied to who knowingly provide shelter or assist in other ways, such as offering a bed for a night upkeep, providing transportation in the like, no mercy He will be shown in the carrying out of such orders.

Nicholas Hill  35:03  
So in the ghettos of Warsaw punishment is continuing to escalate. But in the war things are changing. Because Japan makes a mistake.

Media  35:13  
We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this important bulletin from the United Press, lash Washington, White House announces Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Stay tuned to w o r for further developments which will be broadcast immediately as received. I ask

the Congress that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, some of us Psalm 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire, no matter how long it may take us. To overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous mind will win through to absolute.

Nicholas Hill  36:11  
The United States enters the war against Germany and Japan, the Russians begin to turn back the German advance. American soldiers, sailors and airmen begin fighting alongside the Russians on multiple fronts, including in major battles such as the D Day invasion of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Paris. American industry starts supplying the war effort, providing weapons, equipment and other resources that help to turn the tide of the war

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  36:41  
decree, gas mains to the Jewish district will be turned off. Only coal may be used for heating and cooking. In Irina's

Nicholas Hill  36:49  
quest for justice things are taking a turn as well. Irena is brought a group of boy beggars, and a guard orders the young boys to strip the goal is to see if they are circumcised, which would mean they're Jewish, which would mean they were on the wrong side of the wall, which would mean execution. The two arenas know this, so one of them stalls the guard, while the other takes the boys into the other room to inspect them. There are two circumcised boys. So IRENA takes them to a safe house. This moment is a turning point for her. She now decides it is no longer enough to smuggle supplies. She is now going to start smuggling people.

Lili Pohlmann  37:33  
She decided, at a given moment that Jewish people in the ghetto need help. But to help everyone was an impossibility for her. She could not help everybody. So she decided that those who are the most vulnerable are the children, and that she's going to try her utmost to see if she can save as many as she possibly can. That's all that was her mission. And that's what she did.

Nicholas Hill  38:12  
Irena finds an experienced smuggler named Hirsch, who tells her of a disguised opening in a wall next to a church. She bribes the nightwatchman to look away and coordinates a group of escaping children out one by one. She begins identifying foster parents across Poland. The convent's of the Sisters of the family of Mary, are willing helpers who take in children who can't find a home. Irena finds a secret passageway underneath the courthouse, where a janitor helps her move escapees. By early spring, she's taking three to four orphans per week out of the ghetto. She's learned to watch bricks or loose watch landlords can be bribed. Children are being taken out in garbage bags in morgue wagons sedated and placed with the corpses. For every child, Irena helped to escape, she would keep lists, matching their Jewish names with their new Polish names. She would also list the new address where the children were sent. Now, why would she do that? Why would she write down incriminating evidence that would not only instantly get her killed, but also expose the identity of these rescued orphans?

Lili Pohlmann  39:30  
She decided that every single child will have his Jewish name and his present and she wrote every child's name on a tissue into a bottle because she was hoping that the children will survive and hopefully maybe the parents and this is why she did that.

Nicholas Hill  39:57  
In my interview with Jack he brought up reasoning as well,

Jack Mayer  40:01  
her initial reason for doing the list when she floated the idea of keeping lists to the CO conspirators in the rescue network that she organized, the people said, You can't do that. Irena said there's two reasons I want these lists kept. One is because we need to know where they are to be able to support them. But she said more important, I want these children, particularly the younger ones, to know that they were Jewish, and to know their Jewish names. And it's very touching that Yad Vashem the hit the Israel, Holocaust authority, Yantra, Sham in Hebrew means memory of a name. So it has it has that sort of emotional content and connection.

Nicholas Hill  40:43  
Irena and her co worker Yaga would bury these lists and Yaga 's backyard under an apple tree.

Lili Pohlmann  40:51  
And bottle was she put it under a tree not in her garden, but in the France, one of her co workers

Nicholas Hill  41:01  
in March of 1942. As winter turns to spring, letters begin making their way to the Jews in Warsaw, coming from relatives and friends in eastern cities. The letters contain a simple message. They are killing us. Be careful, take refuge because they are killing us. On April 17, a major German action occurs, they seize 60 prominent Jews and execute them in the street. The Jews all had one thing in common. They were all associated with the underground press, printers, writers, distributors and financiers. This doesn't stop the press and the next underground newspapers arrive on schedule. They report the opening of a new labor camp 60 miles north of Warsaw. It is named Treblinka. And strangely, it doesn't have a barracks for laborers and the place where the barracks would be our brick smokestacks. At first, the Germans tried to trick the Jewish people into wanting to go to Treblinka. Here's survivor Henry Kasha

Henry Kasha  42:19  
said Germans are known as the ghetto is overcrowded, which it was. And there's encouragement, they offered people bread and a jar of jam, to go to the transport. And believe me, probably 10,000 People went like that, because they wanted resources they will be taken somewhere it was able to get normal work, and they nearly had a bread and jam.

Nicholas Hill  42:49  
Once the Jewish people caught on and refused to go anywhere from 2000 to 14,000, would be forcibly removed from the ghetto each day. They're escorted to the train station, also called the own Sherlock plots by Jewish policemen, where they would wait without food or drink for up to 20 hours. Here's survivor Sam Hilton

Sam Hilton  43:13  
by 1942. That's when everything fell apart. Nobody voluntarily going to go down to the Amish like plots the Nazis. SS with the help of the Jewish police started to apprehend from block to block from street to street, people to the home select plots they had a quote a 5000 a day 6000 The day.

Nicholas Hill  43:39  
From there they are crammed into cattle cars transported to Treblinka and never seen again. Lucia Haberfield remembers the conditions well.

Lucia Haberfeld  43:50  
They loaded ash into change decadal trends and get a trench had very little window. Very small window and no a no water and people were suffocating and people were undressing naked and people were losing their mind when we arrived in Lubalin completely parched without water without food without anything. My father went to a German soldier and offered him a vast amount of money for a bottle of water and he couldn't be sat on the spot. But this German soldier brought us a bottle of water.

Nicholas Hill  44:31  
Rumours of Treblinka spread 1000s Go in no one leaves. Posters are placed around Warsaw announcing the death penalty for anyone who spreads these rumors. Irena escalates her work again. She begins taking 10 times as many children as before, and it's no longer just orphans and beggars. Irena is asking all Jewish parents in the ghetto to give up their children. The parents know that to give up their child means never seeing them again. To not give them up means almost certain death. It is an impossible choice. And IRENA needs them to decide right away. One such child was named Elzbieta,

Jack Mayer  45:17  
Irena took her out of the ghetto in a carpenter's box, put her on a brick truck, and they were able to get out that way. She was sedated in the box and had a silver spoon, which was inscribed to her with her birthdate on it from her parents. And it was the only it was the only thing she had from her parents. She had no photographs, nothing. This was the sole connection that she still had with her family. In that trip to LSBs house, she invited us all for dinner, and showed us the spoon. It's the connection of history, the connections of history, the tie that binds that here's this artifact from 1942. And now it's held by lsbf at Costco, who's now in her 60s, and it's being shared with these 15 and 16 year old high school students from Kansas who just have done this play.

Nicholas Hill  46:14  
Smuggling children out of the ghetto was incredibly difficult. Smuggling babies was even more challenging. The babies were given medication called lumenal. To help them stay sedated.

Lili Pohlmann  46:27  
These children were medicated put to sleep so that they shouldn't cry while the lorry or the ambulance is on its way out of the ghetto. And the child was put in a box with some holes in it and say, I don't know cold or rubbish, which they were taking out of the get on tonto, and that's where she put these little boxes and that's how they came up.

Nicholas Hill  46:58  
On the ninth day of the Hebrew month of of the date of the destruction of the first and second temples, and the date on which the Spanish Inquisition expelled the Jews. A new decree is released

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  47:13  
decree Warsaw July 2219 42. By order of the German authorities, all Jews living in Warsaw irrespective of sex and age will be evacuated.

Nicholas Hill  47:25  
Jewish women begin marrying any Jew that has a work permit just so that they can stay protected. Brothers are marrying sisters and rabbis are signing the paperwork just to save lives. Irena sets in motion an emergency response 25 couriers are alerted. All of them begin asking parents to give up their children in earnest, but many parents still hold on to hope. They believe conditions that a labor camp could only be better than the ghetto. But the luxury of time has expired. Irena tells her couriers not to spend time convincing parents. If parents are fused, they move on to the next house. A rain has lists of rescued children grow and grow. It's important to note how many people banded together to help IRENA during this time. In one story, she's on a tram smuggling a little girl named Gupta. When Gupta begins to cry and shout in Yiddish, the tram operator immediately hits the brakes. He kicks everyone off the tram, Irena believes that she's finally caught. He drives the Reina and Ghouta to a quiet street and allows them to go. When asked why he did this. He says I did it without thinking just go. Literally Pullman

Lili Pohlmann  48:48  
said on my own, I could not have done it. She had a lorry driver. She had an ambulance driver, who knew what they were doing. It wasn't that they came here and no, they knew exactly cancer.

Nicholas Hill  49:06  
For every helper, there were 1000s of bystanders too terrified to intervene. I asked Jack about this. One of

Jack Mayer  49:15  
the things I learned from people in Poland was about just how incredibly frightened everybody was at the time that this was going on. And so a lot of their silence and their being bystanders was just out of fear because the consequences of being a rescue or doing anything to help Jews was that you and your family would be killed. So it was the most draconian outcome.

Nicholas Hill  49:37  
After a week of roundups Irina's network would take any child in any way they could. On a successful day, they could smuggle 15 children out. Seeing that there isn't much time left. Irena now offers her friend ever safe passage out of the ghetto ever refuses? She chooses to stay With those in the ghetto, and continue delivering aid until the end, Elba is eventually deported to Treblinka and killed ever isn't the only one who did this. One day the Germans came after Dr. Janusz Korczak, a pediatrician and educator that came after him and the children in his care. In a moment that every witness would remember, he and his children were marched through the streets silently towards the train station. At the last moment, the doctor was offered passage back to the ghetto, but he refused. Here's the account of Holocaust survivor, Irving Roth.

Irving Roth  50:47  
When you think of Jonas Kushite, you're talking about the ultimate educator. He actually gave his life, literally, to comfort children. He could have left the ghetto, he didn't have to even go into the ghetto. To run on individual. There were friends, Polish friends who are going to save with no difficulty at all. But he felt as a father as the protector, he must be dealt with. And so he willingly ran into the cattle car, at the Warsaw Ghetto, with the children 193 Children into the cattle car, to comfort them, boy, it's dark. They don't know where they're going, is with them. In the night before the children were being deported. One of his Polish friends came into the ghetto with papers. So that even though he was alone coming in to offer Murata leave, he berates his friend, saying, How can you ask me? How can a father leverage leave a child from the dark place?

Nicholas Hill  51:54  
Irena is close enough to hear Dr. Janusz Korczak, tell his children that they were going to a place with pine and birch trees, like the ones in their summer camp, and that there would be birds and squirrels and rabbits. As deportations continued, the tone of the parents changed. Now everyone is immediately and eagerly surrendering their children to Irena here's survivor Helena Goldstein.

Helena Goldstein  52:27  
The message was dumped believe the Germans if you can, you have to hide if you can, you have to escape. You have to run there is no life beyond Treblinka,

Nicholas Hill  52:39  
Irena even witnesses a woman throw her baby over the wall of the ghetto in an act of desperation. On August 15, new boundaries are decreed and the ghetto entrance to the courthouse, Irena safest and most reliable escape route is sealed off. So IRENA partners with the Jewish Resistance Army. She obtains a map of the sewers and is now digging up her jars every day to add new names of children that she saved. Irena loses another courier, a 16 year old girl named Steph Shah. She is captured, interrogated, tortured and killed. The young girls in Irina's network begin carrying cyanide capsules in case of capture, and they aren't the only ones. Here's survivor Henry kasha.

Henry Kasha  53:32  
My mother took some rocks and says cannery since our poison pills if you are caught by Germans, take them immediately.

Nicholas Hill  53:42  
The deportations ended on Monday, September 21. The damage done has been overwhelming. The ghetto population was more than half a million at its peak. And now 30,000 remain. Well, I should say 30,000 legally remain. There's another 30,000 hiding in a secret city. They're known only as The wild ones. They don't have papers or ration cards. They subsist solely on smuggled food. They live in secret labyrinths, Warrens of attics and sellers tunnels and crude bunkers without heat. They scramble over rubble and debris through black tunnels, ceiling panels and concealed attics behind on walls and false walls. They remain underground for weeks at a time without daylight. Without toilets in spaces so cramped they can't stand. This area is extremely dangerous for everyone. The wild ones have one mission, they are not going to go willingly. Irena desperately wants a map of this area so that she can continue her work. She meets with the leader of the Jewish fighting force, also known as the Z The OB they introduce her to a man known only as sewer man who can help her to get children out. She smells him before she sees him. And except for the fact that he's Aryan, nobody knows who the heck this guy is. He's just a guy in the sewers saving people. And as they continue saving children, the Z OB begins a war

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  55:25  
proclamation, October 13 1942, the Jewish fighting force Xeo be hereby informed subpopulation that the following have been convicted of crimes against the Jewish people, the union rat in Warsaw and its presidium on the grounds of having collaborated with the Conqueror in signing the deportation order. The managers of the quote shops in the Jewish police, due to their cruel treatment of the workers and the quote, illegal Jewish population. retaliatory measures will be adopted in all their severity.

Nicholas Hill  55:58  
The Jewish fighting force began assassinating blackmailers and collaborators. And they're pretty good at it. Here's fighter and survivor Blake Schiff.

Blake Schiff  56:09  
And during tech meeting, it has been decided to kill Mr. Lincoln. And Lincoln was ahead of the Jewish police at that time. And laking was a small bus that you can imagine. And then we cornered him we cornered lakyn. Now, of course, I put my bullets into one or two bullets into him whether my bullets kill him or somebody else's will bullets. I don't know.

Nicholas Hill  56:36  
The Nazis respond to this by attempting to round up the wild ones. And just when they think they've succeeded, secret agents from within the crowd leap from the line, kill the Nazi guards, and take the guns off their corpses. They disappear back into the city. And over the next four days, they begin using guerrilla tactics, pistols, bombs, homemade grenades, clubs, steel pipes, knives, and their bare hands to kill as many Nazis as they can. This becomes known as the January uprising, also known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Here's survivor Barbara Steiner, describing the event,

Barbara Steiner  57:21  
they get the shock, you didn't see anymore all people because they were killed. You didn't see any children, because they were gone. The majority of us was young people, in the teens, in their early 20s. This group of young people finally start working on the founder, and the one who was really the most famous one was on your luggage. And he just told us, we have to do something not to survive, because how can you survive? How can you fight a giant German army when no European country could, but at least to die with dignity, at least to make sure that the world will know that that's not true that the Jews went like sheep to the slaughter? Because God knows it's not Detroit.

Nicholas Hill  58:22  
All over Warsaw, the symbol of the resistance begins to appear hastily scribbled on walls and on posters laying across the city. The letter P superimposed on a W. Standing for Polska VLJ. Polling Poland is fighting. Survivor Anna Heilmann remembers putting up these posters.

Anna Heilman  58:44  
My function was to go after curfew and pace the posters calling the Jews to armed rebellion on the walls of buildings. My father, of course, he didn't know what I was doing. But when I was coming home after the curfew, it was it was a terrible thing. They were terribly worried. There were patrols but it was stark and when you streets and we'll go in through the Huawei suits or bake yards risking our lives but we will we Yank and one was going with a bucket and brush to paste the wall and the other one was running with the role of postures and flipping them it was it was fun. Younger things to realize how dangerous it really was. It was kind of a sport. I was adamant that we are not going to be taken the life we are not going to be allowed to take on the transports and I was all hyped up with it. I knew that this is exactly what I inclined to do. We are not going to go just like that. They will trust the conviction. We are just not going.

Nicholas Hill  59:54  
Meanwhile, Irena needs money. Children are hidden all throughout. Poland and they need monthly support. Irena is introduced to a secret organization named Zed gota. The gota has the same goals that she does to undermine the German movement and save the Jewish children. Irena is taken to a secret meeting. She is officially inducted into Cecotto. She keeps her existing codename Yolanda. This organization is nationwide. They work with the Home Army. They're endorsed by the delegate Torah in London. And they are the only organization sponsored by the government in exile. Basically, what this means is they have money and a lot of it. Irena is asked to coordinate say go to his children's division. And she's given 100,000 zloty a month to do so.

Lili Pohlmann  1:00:54  
And she presented herself and said, This is what she would like to do, and they put her in charge of the children's department. Her aim is to take out as many children as possible, and young children very young, somewhere, almost newly born, so that was a terrible thing.

Nicholas Hill  1:01:19  
After the January uprising, the last telephone lines to the ghetto are severed. tanks and armored cars rattled through the front gate. Ghetto, workers abandon their posts and disappear underground. The Germans begin burning entire blocks at a time,

Quentin Vo - Voiceover Narration  1:01:37  
the Kree Warsaw April 26 1943, by order of the Warsaw chief of police, any poll who knowingly assists in any way, a Jew escaping from the Jewish district will be executed immediately and without trial. Any poll with knowledge of Jews outside the Jewish district will be sent to concentration camp.

Nicholas Hill  1:01:59  
Everyone understands without a doubt that this is a fight to the death. Children are popping out of manholes all over Warsaw covered with sewage accompanied by teenage couriers. Germans began pumping poison gas into the sewers, and they become filled with floating bodies. Every emergency care unit is full money for as a gota is literally falling from the sky and parachutes. With houses full escaped children have no choice but to run to the forest. A diary entry from one of the Z OB fighters reads, I can't think of anything but breathing air. The heat in the bunker is unbearable. The air is mildewed. A candle goes out for lack of air. I sit here open mouthed to many people, one can't talk. All the food is spoiled. We haven't eaten in over a day. Nothing but dry bread, and the water has gone bad. On May 16 1943, a huge explosion fills the air. The Great Synagogue of Warsaw has been destroyed. The uprising has come to an end. And the ghetto is no more survivor Barbara Steiner recalls the end.

Barbara Steiner  1:03:17  
What I'm very proud of. And I want history to know about that this little worse, okay. Fight it much longer than any country in Europe. Some countries was handed to Hitler without any fighting at all. The only countries which was left free in Europe really was Switzerland, and Sweden. And not mentioning of course, Russia which was fighting in England, the rest everything was occupied by the Germans, and none of the countries was fighting gets along, as this little Warsaw ghetto.

Nicholas Hill  1:04:03  
With the ghetto destroyed, Irena counts her names. She had rescued over 2500 Jewish children. For the next five months. Irina's mission was to support these children by organizing support to foster homes, convents, and orphanages. But IRENA couldn't escape forever. And on October 20 1943, she is jolted awake by a rough knocking at the door.

Lili Pohlmann  1:04:35  
In the middle of the night. She heard these nine Gestapo, you could tell they're wonderful boots on the ground on the floor. And so she immediately she had the names of the children, the little things on the table because they were talking about discussing, she grabbed all the have that and gave it to the friend and the friend was abandoned and feel open the door and they did their whole place upside down.

Nicholas Hill  1:05:11  
Irina's apartment is ransacked and secured. The carpet is turned over mirrors and pictures torn down floorboards pried loose, mattresses slashed open, and a pistol held on IRENA during all of it. She's arrested placed in a holding cell and interrogated. They show her her file, which contains several confessions, signed witness statements from people who admitted working with Irena. They had broken under torture, all of them were executed. Irena says nothing, and the torture begins. Her tormentor Halbach focused beatings and injuries on her legs for about one hour per day. After each session, she would be forced to stand on her legs for 10 hours. The previous day's welts would be used as targets for the following day's session. And this would repeat every day for two and a half months straight. After 70 days in prison, another woman in the prison tells Irena, you need to go to the dentist. Now, since IRENA didn't feel like she needed to go to the dentist, she took this as a sign and she went, the dentist secretly snuck a note into one of Irina's fillings. The note read, The lists are safe, we are doing what we can to save you. Irena would later say that she got through this torture by reminding herself that there was no escape. There was no hope. She was already dead. After 100 days in prison, Irina's name is called by the execution squad. She is transported to the execution chamber, and she watches the condemned in front of her one by one go into a door on the left. They do not return. When a rain His name is called, however, she's taken through a door on the right. A German SS officer pushes her to her knees, her legs still throbbing from the beatings. A guard stands at the door, and the officer dismisses him. He grips IRENA under the arm and drags her into an alleyway and back of the building. He releases her and says in Polish, you are free. Get out of here as fast as you can.

Lili Pohlmann  1:07:39  
Too often, she wasn't being tortured. And she never divulged a single name, no one and no were nothing. And she was going to be executed. And the soldier standing guard there or whoever was slowly looking after themselves and now run, and how could she run when she was tortured, she had no legs to run with. But somehow she did run and it transpired the Jugurtha bribed. This particular guardsman

Nicholas Hill  1:08:20  
IRENA is confused, she stumbles to a nearby pharmacy, where the pharmacist jumps into action. She sees IRENA is wearing prisoners clothing, so she gives her a change of clothes. She sees the rain his legs are destroyed, so she gives her a cane for walking. She sees that IRENA is penniless and gives her money for the tram. Irena later learns that there's a gota had paid their largest bribe ever for her release. And the next day, it is announced that Irena Sendler has been executed.

Jack Mayer  1:08:54  
The fact that she was able to get out of Polyak prison is just astounding because nobody got out of puffy hug prison except when they were killed. And it was a pretty horrible place. She talked about it when I interviewed her she gave some rather detailed and disturbing anecdotes about what happened to her in the prison and her cellmates with whom were executed. So, yeah, that was pretty remarkable. It's an a measure of how important she was to the underground

Nicholas Hill  1:09:23  
ze gota provides IRENA with a new ID birth certificate and ration card. Her new name is Clara Dunbar, Oscar. Irena is officially on the run. Like all of those she had helped. She sleeps at different houses every night. She even stays at the Warsaw zoo, along with an armadillo and Fox kids that had been nursed by a cat. As a guest of the zookeepers and rescuers, Jen and Antonia's of insky. The guard who allowed her to be released is discovered and killed. Irena is now on the Top of the Gestapo 's most wanted list. When her mother passes away, she isn't even able to attend the funeral. As she knows they'll be looking for her. Over the next year, Warsaw is systematically destroyed by the Germans. Irena and her friend Stefan worked side by side with physicians and pediatricians, fighting diseases such as tuberculosis. Neither of them had much experience with trauma, and yet they both performed surgeries daily. One year later, on May 7 1945, Germany surrenders.

Media  1:10:40  
General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly all over Europe. In the West, nations have demonstrated that their arms are stronger by far than the might of dictators, or the tyranny of military cliques that once called us soft and weak. Yesterday morning, at 2:41am at General Eisenhower headquarters, the representative of the German High Command shines the act of unconditional surrender of all German land, sea and our fortune in Europe to the Allied expedition reporting today is Victory in Europe Day. Long live the cause of freedom. God save the king.

Nicholas Hill  1:11:46  
After the war, Irena dug up the jars and put the lists together. When she was asked about this, Irena said, as long as the jars were buried, we didn't have to admit to ourselves that all the children's parents are dead. I think memory is like that. We bury it to keep from hurting. But always it needs to be dug up. She gave the list to a Mr. Berman, president of the Central Committee of Polish Jews, Mr. Berman promised to do his best to reunite the families. But this reunification had unintended consequences.

Jack Mayer  1:12:27  
When I first started researching this, this project, I thought of the list as being really a central part of this story. And in some sense, it was but turned out to be a mixed blessing worth worse than a mixed blessing. And even there was even some trauma that was that was associated with these lists. But you have to remember that all of these children who IRENA kept, kept track of their Jewish names and their new Polish names that they were given for hiding. Most of their parents were murdered, and they were orphans, most of them, but a significant number of them did have surviving relatives. And IRENA talked about this. And she talked about it as a great sorrow that she felt about the lists was that some of these children were then identified by their relatives, many of whom lived in Israel that they had emigrated to Israel. So an uncle or a cousin would recognize the names and would come and then take these children away from their Polish foster families that had basically adopted them. This happened when they were really young. These Polish foster families were their family, they consider them like their biological family, and then all of a sudden these strangers come and take them and with the best of intentions, but re traumatized these children in a painful way. And and IRENA talked to me about that and said how troubled she was by that. And this unanticipated consequence of keeping these lists.

Nicholas Hill  1:13:54  
Irena was not celebrated after the Nazis surrendered. In fact, her life would be incredibly difficult. After the war, the Soviet Union took over Poland, and communism took hold.

Jack Mayer  1:14:09  
They identified rescuers, they call them outlaws, they were subjected to arrest interrogation some of them were actually executed, the communist government had no use for rescuers under their regimes they were marginalized and IRENA herself suffered from some of that her daughter had been accepted at the University of Warsaw and then she was not allowed to go and she was subjected to surveillance and interrogation. So there was this profound silence in Poland.

Nicholas Hill  1:14:40  
Irena was interrogated by security police. She was considered a danger to the state. Her children were denied educational opportunities, and she was threatened with prosecution and incarceration. Polish members of zig gota became enemies of the people. They were barred from jobs and education Asian membership ends ago to became a label of criminality. Some of their most celebrated heroes imprisoned, sent to Siberia or executed. Even decades later, many Polish heroes were still hesitant about revealing their histories. Because of the Long Shadow of communism. Jack recalls an experience he had during a performance of the play life and a jar to an audience in Warsaw.

Jack Mayer  1:15:30  
So I'm sitting next to this elderly gentleman who was clearly old enough to have been an adult during the war. And throughout the whole performance, he was sitting with his hands cupped he was like sitting like there was something in his hands that he was keeping covered. And after the performance, Megan, one of the three Kansas girls came up to me with one of the Polish high school students that she was working with to tell us a story of a rescuer from his community. I was introduced to this elderly gentleman, and I asked him what he had what he was holding. And he opened his hand and showed me his Yad Vashem metal, which I, which identified him as a righteous Gentile. And he said, I have kept this hidden in my basement. The only person who knows about this is my wife. I haven't told my children about this, my friends, my co workers, and I have kept this bury, and only now because of the work of these kids from America, and because of these young people in my community, do I feel that I can now bring this iconic token into public and tell my story, and he was a rescuer of Jews during the war, and nobody knew it. Nobody knew what he had done. And he said it was the finest thing I've ever done in my life. And I had to keep it buried. I had to keep it hidden.

Nicholas Hill  1:16:56  
When the dust settles and the accounting is done, here are the numbers. Irena and her network rescued 2500 children 1200 Children were placed with foster families. 500 children were placed in monasteries with Yan dobara chin ski, and yod Viga Petrov ska 500 children were placed with the Polish council for care. 200 children were placed in the house of father Bolduan. 100 teenagers were directed to the forest to join the partisans to save every Jewish life 10 People had to risk their own. Today, Irena is celebrated by many Irena Sendler de has been declared in multiple towns, cities and states, including Warsaw in June of 2005, with Irina's recognition came a complete shift in the conversation in Poland. I asked Jack about what he'd seen.

Jack Mayer  1:18:02  
I returned to Poland in 2013, when the Polish translation of my book was released. And what I saw was nothing short of remarkable when, whereas the first time I went, I couldn't find any evidence or footprint of the wall that went around the ghetto. When I went back in 2013, there is now a perimeter, it's almost a foot wide. It's a cement strip, with metal inlays that say, ghetto wall, it's in Polish, and English has the dates on it. It goes around the entire circumference of the wall, so you cannot step into what was the Warsaw Ghetto. Now without seeing this perimeter without knowing that you're crossing. At every one of the 22 gates to the ghetto, there is now a Cenotaph. With a detailed description about what happened in the ghetto, how many people died. There is a relief map that shows the shape of the ghetto position of the ghetto superimposed on a map of Warsaw from the 40s during the war, so that's the most dramatic.

Nicholas Hill  1:19:14  
Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. A tree was planted in her honor on the Avenue of the just in 1983. And she received a personal letter from the Pope. She was made an honorary citizen of Israel in 1985. In 1965, Irena was named Righteous Among the Nations by the organization of Yad Vashem and is presented with a metal which reads who saves one life saves the universe whole. Here's Lily Pullman, with her final thoughts on Irena.

Lili Pohlmann  1:19:55  
She was the most amazing human being I have ever known, buddy. Colette not just for herself, who lifts to do good, I would say she was a very courageous person, because of what she was doing what she decided to do in her wisdom in her great wisdom cuz she was a very wise person.

Nicholas Hill  1:20:20  
Irena has been interviewed several times in her later life. She said her greatest fear was that if she stopped taking children from the ghetto, the full weight of this tragedy would sweep over her like a tidal wave. When she was asked, weren't you afraid? She said, Yes. And my anger was stronger than my fear.

Lili Pohlmann  1:20:42  
This is what she said this, I quote, as I shall have an iota of energy in my body, I shall declare that only God is supreme. It must be striven for at all costs. And in the end, it must prevail.

Nicholas Hill  1:21:04  
I asked Jack about his final thoughts as well,

Jack Mayer  1:21:07  
really, anything you do to repair the world is an important act, and that the only mistake you can make is to do nothing, and that you cannot be a bystander. You have to be actively involved with history and with your own history and with the world history, and that you can do it. You know, one thing I have learned is the Holocaust is so huge and so vast that nobody can carry all of it. And sometimes that can be so daunting and overwhelming, that people then just put up a wall or a barrier against knowledge of it or of seeing any sort of evidence of it. So I felt like if each one of us can do one little thing, illuminate one aspect of the Holocaust, that's maybe the best we can do.

Nicholas Hill  1:21:57  
Irena Sendler lived to the age of 98. On May 12 2008, after eating her breakfast, her head slumped forward, and she died in peace. Irena was asked dozens of times. Why did she do it? She was Polish. She didn't have to risk her life. She didn't have to submit herself to torture and interrogation and fear. Why do any of it? Her answer was always the same. She said simply, it was a need of my heart. I hope that you enjoyed today's episode, I'd like to give special thanks to author Jack Mayer for his time and his expertise. I'd also like to take this moment to recommend you read the book Life and a jar, which gives far more detail on this story, and includes the amazing story of the three Kansas teens who brought IRENA story to life. I'll add a link in the show notes. Today's show was directed and produced by me with VoiceOver reenactment from Quinton VO and music from Alex girls. Special thanks to guest Jack Mayer. If you liked today's episode, please follow us wherever you listen to podcasts, and consider leaving a review as it will help us to spread the word about the show. You can view more information about today's episode online at acts of Thank you for listening