Saturday, October 17, 2009

Irena Sendler and Life in a Jar

Today's posting comes from an email I received from my husband's aunt. Given the announcement recently that President Obama received the Noble Peace Prize, I thought this was pretty timely. "Obama got much attention for his speech from Cairo reaching out a U.S. hand to the world's Muslims. His remarks at the U.N. General Assembly last month set down internationally welcome new markers for the way the U.S. works with the world." The story of Irene Sadler makes Obama's winning seem unworthy. The email I received is as follows with a few notes from me:

"There recently [on May 18, 2008] was a death of a 98 year-old lady named Irena Sendler. During WWII, Irena got permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an 'ulterior motive' ... She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews, (being German.) Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids..) She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

"During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely. Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

"Last year [actually, this was in 2007] Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize...She was not selected. Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming."

We learn about Anne Frank in school, as well as the holocaust. Why do we not learn about women like Irena Sendler? What Irena did is far greater than anything Obama has done thus far, and Gore's award could have waited a year. Irena fought singlehandedly to put families back together in the face of the horrors of war. Name a better way to personify peace.

"The Nobel Peace Prize is an award presented to either an individual or an organization in accordance with Alfred Nobel’s living will. Alfred Nobel, creator of the five Nobel Prizes, was a Swedish inventor and industrialist. He disposed the Nobel Peace Prize in his will to be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." The Nobel Peace Prize differs from the Nobel Prizes in literature, physics, chemistry, and medicine or physiology in that it may be presented not only to individuals, but also to organizations that are actively engaged in a process or effort that intends to promote world peace. The prize can be awarded for current efforts, rather than for having accomplished a goal or resolved an issue." I guess this last part works for Obama, but more even though this is the way Alfred Nobel created it, it should be revisited. Can we really guess as to someone's future greatness?

From Irena's Wiki entry: "In 2007 considerable publicity accompanied Sendler's nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. While failed nominations for the award have not been officially announced by the Nobel organization for 50 years, the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, reported in 2007 that Irena Sendler's nominator had made the nomination public. Regardless of its legitimacy, talk of the nomination focused a spotlight on Sendler and her wartime achievements. The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former Vice President of the United States Al Gore."

"Sendler's story was brought to light in the United States when students in Kansas found it described in a magazine and popularized it through their original play Life in a Jar. On April 19, 2009, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, a Hallmark Hall of Fame production written and directed by John Kent Harrison and starring Anna Paquin in the title role, was broadcast by CBS." I personally don't remember hearing about this movie, but it sounds like something that should be considered as part of the curriculum when it comes to teaching about WWII.

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."--George Santayana

Given the way the world is today, I don't think we are too far off from having another holocaust happening in our lifetime. It could happen anywhere and if it does, I think it'll be somewhere in the Middle East. Ethnic cleansing, unfortunately, is an idea that might be revisited by those who feel their way is the only way. It's a new take on modern terrorism.

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