Mujeres Nobel


Irena Sendler

She was born on February 15, 1910, in Warsaw. In the autumn of 1939 she was working for the Department of Social Welfare and she became immediately involved in the clandestine aid for the Jews, risking her life.

Helped by a network of friends and collaborators, she rescued children from the Ghetto and gave them a new name and a new family. She wrote down their details on a list, so as to be able to give them their identity, back once the war ended. In 1943 she was betrayed and the Gestapo registered her house and took her to the Pawiak prison, where she was tortured and condemned to death: I kept silent. I preferred to die than to reveal our activity.

She appeared on the list of those that have been shot, but she managed to save herself. She changed her real name to that of Jolanta and continued her work in the resistance. Some days before the Warsaw Uprising, she hid the valuable lists with the roots of more than 2,500 Jewish children into two bottles and buried them under an apple tree in the garden of a friend. When the war ended she gave them to the Council for Aid to Jews.

The Communist regime that governed Poland after the war ignored her, and she lived in anonymity until her old age. In 1995 she was given the title of Righteous among the Nations and in 1991 she was made an Honorary Citizen of Israel. In 1999 four American students from Kansas knew about her story and wrote a play about her, My Life in a Jar, that made her heroic life known around the world.

In 2003 she received Poland’s highest honour, Dame of the Order of the White Eagle and the Children of the Holocaust Association proposed her for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 2007 she was again nominated with the support of the Polish Government and the State of Israel.

She died in Warsaw on May 12, 2008, at the age of 98.