The World Is Poorer Tonight
On her visits there, she invented various ingenious ways of smuggling out babies, young children, and even teenagers. For those who do not know, in 1943, facing what they knew was certain death, the inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto began to fight back. Untrained, with only limited, smuggled weaponry, they managed to tie up an impressive number of supposedly superior German soldiers armed with all the powerful tools of death the Nazi state could give them.
Finally, the Nazis admitted they couldn't stand up to the Jews face to face, even with superior weapons to back them up, and they pulled back. They shelled and bombed the ghetto into ruins, then surged in with overwhelming force to pump deadly gas into the sewers and cellar holes where survivors might be hiding.
In other words, of those who lived in the Warsaw ghetto, there were very few survivors. Of that number, 2,500 and their descendants owe their lives to Irena Sendler. Later, arrested by the Gestapo, she stood up to their torture rather than betray the names of those who helped her, and bore the scars of that torture on her body until the day she died.
Although she lived in obscurity for most of her life, and was embarrassed at the attention she finally received in her old age when her story was remembered, this was a woman we could all learn from, a woman worthy of admiration. The world is always in desperate need of more people like her. Anyone who believes in goodness and decency should mourn her loss tonight.
As we mourn, I think she would approve of this advice: learn from her life, from her love, from her courage. Stand up to help the weak, rescue the endangered, and protect the persecuted. Do what you can to make the world a better place. Look up to the true heroes: they aren't the richest men among us, or the most beautiful women. They aren't business leaders or celebrities. They are quiet heroes, who do what they can and expect no reward. Irena Sendler, may you rest in peace.