The atrocities carried out under the rule of Nazi Germany showed our ability for almost unimaginable cruelty towards one another and, probably for the first time, they were carried out with scientific precision.
Plenty of people inside and outside of Germany and the other occupied countries knew, or at least suspected, what was going on, though few could or did do anything about it.
We’re familiar with some of those who did. Oskar Schindler is perhaps the most famous due to Steven Spielberg’s film, but there were many individuals and groups who risked their lives for other people, not just Jews (Wikipedia has a partial list of those who helped Jews, while the most prominent are featured in a list of the Righteous among the Nations).
It’s perhaps not unsurprising that I’d never heard of the person celebrated in an email I received recently. Irena Sendler was part of the Polish Underground, who helped Jews throughout the war. She focused on helping children, though she also produced false documents for Jewish families before that, and managed to save at least 2,500 children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Continue reading