Irena Sendler a Holocaust Saviour

by Maskil on 9 Aug 2013

The Talmud says that "He who saves one life… it as if he saves an entire universe…" Sanhedrin 4:5.

Oskar Schindler’s name became a household word in 1982 with the award-winning book Schindler’s Ark. The story was even more widely publicized in 1993 when the movie Schindler’s List was released. Schindler’s story was an incredible tale of bravery, initiative and pursuit of righteousness and stories of resistance in the face of Nazi might and stories such as his remind us of how many worlds were saved by the actions of the Righteous Among the Nations.

One such story was almost relegated to the archives of history. It was only due to the diligence and persistence of a group of non-Jewish Kansas schoolgirls that the courage and dedication of a Polish woman who sacrificed her own freedom to save Jewish lives is recognized.

Irena Sendler was a young Polish social worker when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. One of the Germans’ first acts was to isolate the Jews of Poland. Murder and persecution began almost immediately and many Jews were sent away to labour camps or interned in ghettos. Sendler was an early member of the Zagota Polish underground which was dedicated to helping the Jews obtain false papers that identified them as Polish Christians and allowed them to integrate into Polish cities. It is estimated that, in her capacity as a Zagota member, Sendler assisted over 500 Jews in this manner.

The Warsaw Ghetto was established in November of 1940 and over 400,000 Jews were interned in its 3.4 square mile area. From the beginning the situation was catastrophic within the ghetto. There was little food available and the Germans rounded up Jews daily to send them to the Treblinka death camp.

Sendler obtained papers that identified her as a nurse who specialized in infectious diseases. She was then able to enter the ghetto with food and medicines and she began to smuggle street orphans out every time she left the ghetto. Sendler rightly recognized that the Nazis intended to murder all of the ghetto Jews and within a short period of time she started to approach families within the ghetto to try to convince them to allow her to take their children to the "safe" side of Warsaw.

"I talked the mothers out of their children" Sendler said when she was interviewed over half a century after the events. "Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn’t give me the child. Their first question was, ‘What guarantee is there that the child will live?’ I said, ‘None. I don’t even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today."

Sendler and her Zagota comrades had a variety of smuggling options that they employed including sedating young children and smuggling them out under Sendler’s tram seat or in pieces of luggage or in toolboxes. Sometimes they hid the children under garbage or put barking dogs on top of the children to distract the German guards.

Once a child arrived on the other side of the ghetto wall Sendler and her friends procured false documents for the child and located hiding places — with sympathetic families, in convents and in orphanages. The children had to learn Catholic liturgy and internalize their new identities, though Sendler recorded their true names on pieces of tissue paper which she hid in glass jars in her yard, hoping to reunite them with the Jewish community at the end of the war.

Sendler and her comrades successfully brought out over 2500 Jewish children and hid them for the duration of the war. In October 1943 Sendler was arrested and taken to the infamous Pawiak prison where she was interrogated. Sendler withstood the torture and didn’t reveal any information about the children or about her Zagota comrades. As she was being led to her execution a German guard, who had been bribed, allowed her to escape and she spent the rest of the war years in hiding.

Sendler was honoured for her activities in 1965 by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile but her story was forgotten until 1999 when a group of students from the Lowell Milken Center, acting on a few snippets of information, tracked her down. Sendler was well into her 90s when the girls began their project. The project, Life in a Jar, eventually expanded into a book, a website and a performance which has been viewed by thousands of people throughout the world.

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East Jerusalem: Liberated or Occupied?

by Maskil on 5 Jul 2010

A 1978 notice on the Temple Mount in Hebrew, E...

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(This blog post was originally drafted in response to the piece “Next year in occupied East Jerusalem!”, which appeared in the Jewish Journal (Los Angeles) in March 2010. The draft was on a USB memory stick that disappeared at the time and has just reappeared. While it’s no longer a timely response, I think it’s still an appropriate one. I’m posting it with only minor edits.)

A few reactions to this passionate summation of our historic attachment to Jerusalem, and the apparently unstoppable need to build in East Jerusalem at this particular juncture in history:

Yes, it would have been nice if we could have had it all, right now. We made do without having sovereignty over Jerusalem for almost 2,000 years, however. Maybe

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Microsoft Office Outlook Icon

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The requirement sounds like a simple one: synchronise my Outlook (2003) Calendar and Contacts (especially) with Gmail, Hotmail, or another secure, reliable Webmail or other service. As a lifelong corporate IT person, I still like using Outlook as my e-mail and PIM client (although I’m now 2 versions behind). I would, however, like to have my Contacts and other Outlook PIM stuff backed up and synchronised with a cloud service.

Surely it can’t be that difficult? Apparently it is, even if you’re prepared to pay for it. Here’s my experience testing out a number of options over the past couple of days. Let’s go through them, starting with the big guys.

Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook

My main e-mail account is a Gmail account, so synching with Gmail on the Web would have been first prize. Not only that, but Google already has a tool to do exactly that, Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. You can download and install it freely, but it won’t work with a e-mail address, nor with Google Apps Standard Edition. It only works with the premium editions of G/A.

Here’s my request to Google to open up this app to the peasants as well:

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Facebook logo

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I recently volunteered to become the Webmaster and all-round IT Guy for our local community police forum, the Norwood Community Police Forum (NCPF). (Officially, “The Norwood Community Police Forum (NCPF) is a community based organization that works in close harmony with community stakeholders. It creates a link between community and police and improves co-operation between both parties.”)

The NCPF’s two digital assets were:

  • A Website. Technically a blog, as its platform is the WordPress content management system (CMS)
  • A Facebook Group (note: Group, not (Fan) Page)

The Website didn’t present any real challenges, as I’ve been using self-hosted WordPress for a couple of years now. The limitations (irritations) I have found can probably be addressed by using a better Theme.

I hadn’t managed a Facebook Group before, but wasn’t expecting any issues, as I maintain two Facebook Pages. I had three short-term objectives for the Group:

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The two Israels and the two Judaisms

31 May 2010

Although, strictly speaking, there are many “tribes” in Israel (to use Bernard Avishai’s terminology), just as there are many streams or denominations within Judaism, in effect we can reduce this to only two Israels, and two Judaisms. Which Israel is yours, and which Judaism? One is welcoming, the other hostile. One seeks to include, the […]

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Activism for a just Israel

23 Dec 2009

If you live in a country (such as the US) where freedom of (or even from) religion, religious pluralism, and other democratic rights are taken somewhat for granted, you can help your Israeli brethren/cousins gain those same rights by adding your name to these petitions.

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Hiddush – Freedom Of Religion for Israel

19 Nov 2009

My sense is that the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism have now begun to realise that Israel has become the battleground in the struggle for religious parity and pluralism in the Jewish world. Israel needs to be freed from the burden of religious discrimination both for its own sake, and because these alternative visions of Judaism will steadily lose ground in the Diaspora unless their status in Israel is secure.

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Remembrance Day in Israel

11 Nov 2009

Perhaps it’s time to ask, though, whether there’s room within the Israeli calendar and consciousness for a more general salute for those (both Jews and non-Jews) who served, fought and died to make our world (such as it is) the place it is today, with all its problems and potential.

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The Last Days of Greater Israel – A Response to Uzi Silber

9 Nov 2009

In the next few years, therefore, (e.g. by end of Obama’s 1st and hopefully only term), Israel should negotiate OR IMPOSE a settlement that the key players can live with, if not actually like (the US would be seen as a key player, Saudi Arabia not).
Essentially what I’m suggesting is that Israel begin unilaterally implementing the best possible deal she could expect at the negotiating table, then wait for the other parties to catch up.

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Last days of Apartheid South Africa – Lessons for Israel

4 Nov 2009

Israel has perhaps another decade to restore its status as a Rechtsstaat (both internally and externally) and integrate itself back into the family of nations. Another decade before the same forces that ended 40 years of National Party rule in South Africa also put an end to the 40-year illusion of Greater Israel and the hopes and dreams of Little Israel along with it.

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