12 May 2008
Yad Vashem mourns the passing today of Irena Sendler, Righteous Among the Nations from Poland, who risked her life to rescue hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust. Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev remarked upon her death, “Irena Sendler’s courageous activities rescuing Jews during the Holocaust serve as a beacon of light to the world, inspiring hope and restoring faith in the innate goodness of mankind.”
When World War II broke out, Irena Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker in Warsaw. At great personal danger, Sendler helped smuggle numerous Jews out of the ghetto to the Aryan side and set up hiding places for them. She used her professional contacts to hide Jewish children in orphanages and institutes for abandoned children. Sendler was arrested during October 1943, but she managed to hide incriminating evidence before her arrest, including the coded addresses of children that she had hidden and large sums of money to pay to those who helped Jews. She was sentenced to death and sent to prison, but underground activists managed to bribe officials to release her. After her release in February 1944, Sendler continued her underground activities and went into hiding.
On 19 October 1965, Yad Vashem recognized Irena Sendler as Righteous Among the Nations. The tree planted in her honor stands at the entrance to the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.