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Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto
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Archive: Other Books > Irena's Children; 3.5 Stars

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Hahtoolah | 432 comments Irene Sendler (1910 ~ 2008) is sometimes referred to as the female Schindler. Through her organization of a secret network in the Warsaw ghetto, she helped save more than 2500 Jewish children from the Nazis during World War II.

Irena’s Children tells of her courage during this period of history. When asked about her efforts years after the war, Irena downplayed her role and insisted that she was assisted by many others and fretted that she couldn’t save more children.

Irena followed her beloved father’s example. Although her doctor father died when she was only 6 or 7 years old, she remembered his tending to patients during the typhoid epidemic. He gave her a strong moral compass to come to the aid and assistance of others.

Irena married shortly after university, but fell in love with the married Adam Celnikier, who was Jewish. With her husband off to war, Irena and Adam made a life together, working to protect the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto.

As conditions worsened in Poland, Irena, who was a social worker, was able to obtain a pass to enter the Warsaw ghetto. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, the Polish resistance quickly grew. Irena met Dr. Helena Radlinska, who was a leading force behind the resistance of Warsaw. Irena was in a position to falsify official paperwork and create new identities. This helped provide children with an escape. Many of the children were given to Catholic families and taught Christian prayers so that they could fool the German soldiers if questioned. Irena kept careful records of the children’s old and new identities so that the children could be reunited with their surviving parents after the war. After the war, however, many of the children were orphaned.

Irena was captured by the Gestapo and imprisoned. She was tortured, but never gave up any information. She feared being executed, but a bribe by her fellow resistance fighters on the outside saved her.

After the war, Poland was under Soviet control and many of the resistance fighters were persecuted, thus much of the history of the resistance was suppressed. I found this book a bit confusing. It was written almost like it was a translation from another language. For this reason, I gave it only 3.5 stars. It is an important piece of history, however, and is one that should be read by all.


Karin | 7202 comments Yes, this was 3.5 for me, but I rounded it up to 4. I'm glad I read it, though.


Booknblues | 6204 comments I was so intrigued by the story that I didn't notice the language. It made my top ten for the year I read it.


Karin | 7202 comments Booknblues wrote: "I was so intrigued by the story that I didn't notice the language. It made my top ten for the year I read it."

That happens to me sometimes, but I'd already read articles and seen something on TV about Irina, so while there were more details in the book, I basically already knew the story.


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