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Irena Sendler

Born: 15th February, 1910 Died: 12th May, 2008 Nationality: Polish

Sendler served as a social worker with Warsaw's welfare department, masterminding the risky rescue operations of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during Nazi Germany's brutal World War II occupation. Records show that Sendler's team of some 20 people saved nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto between October 1940 and April 1943. In this period, the Nazis burned down the ghetto, shot residents and sent them to concentration camps.

Photo credits: Stefan Maszewski

Under the pretext of inspecting the ghetto's sanitary conditions during a typhoid outbreak, Sendler and her assistants went inside in search of children who could be smuggled out and given a chance of survival by living as Catholics. Babies and small children were smuggled out in ambulances and in trams, sometimes wrapped up as packages. Teenagers escaped by joining teams of workers forced to labor outside the ghetto.

The children were placed in families, orphanages, hospitals or convents. In the hope of one day uniting the children with their families — most of whom perished in the Nazis' death camps —

Sendler wrote the children's real names on slips of paper that she kept at home. With her courage and determination, in a time when her own life was in danger, she enabled the continuation of younger generations that would not have been possible without her bravery.

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