AJC Mourns Passing of Irena Sendler, Polish Catholic Rescuer of Jewish Children

May 13, 2008 – New York – The American Jewish Committee mourns the passing of Irena Sendler, the Polish Catholic nurse who rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.

“Irena Sendler was one of the precious few who took extraordinary measures, at risk to her own life, to save Jewish children from certain death at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust,” said AJC Executive Director David A. Harris.

Yad Vashem, in 1965, recognized Sendler as one of the righteous among the nations. She also was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize. And, last year Poland's parliament officially honored Sendler as a national heroine in ceremonies that featured many of the children she rescued.

During the war, Sendler used ambulances and other means, including coffins, to smuggle children out of the Warsaw ghetto to keep them from being deported to concentration and death camps. She created and hid lists with the children’s identities so that one day they could be reunited with their families. However, most of the families perished in the Holocaust, and she later placed the children with orphanages or helped them to go to what would become in 1948 the sovereign state of Israel.

"Every child saved with my help is justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory," wrote Sendler in a letter read at the Polish parliament ceremony last year. "Over a half-century has passed since the Holocaust, but its specter still hangs over the world."

“We will cherish her memory,” said David Harris. “We hope her noble example will always serve as an inspiration of moral and physical courage, compassion and the finest of the human spirit.”

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