Irena Sendlerowa, a member of Zegota, an underground organization of Poles and Jews that coordinated efforts to save Jews in Nazi-occupied ... [LCID: 89130]

Portrait of Żegota member Irena Sendler

Portrait of Irena Sendler in Warsaw, Poland, circa 1939.  

Irena Sendler (Sendlerowa) was a member of the Council for Aid to Jews (codenamed “Żegota”). Żegota was a clandestine rescue organization of Poles and Jews in German-occupied Poland. Supported by the Polish government-in-exile, Żegota coordinated efforts to save Jews from Nazi persecution and murder. It operated from 1942 to 1945. 

Irena Sendler (1910–2008) was working as a social worker in Warsaw when World War II broke out in 1939. After the Nazis forced Warsaw’s Jews to move into the ghetto in the fall of 1940, Sendler used her position and prewar network to supply food and offer financial assistance to Jews. By early 1943, Sendler had joined Żegota. Żegota members secured hiding places for Polish Jews and delivered money, food, false identity documents, and medical assistance to those in their care.

Under the alias “Jolanta,” Sendler helped smuggle several hundred Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto. She found hiding places for them in orphanages, convents, schools, hospitals, and private homes. Sendler provided each child with a new identity, carefully recording their original names and placements in code so that surviving relatives could find them after the war. In the fall of 1943, only a few days after Sendler was appointed head of Żegota’s children's section, she was arrested by the Gestapo (German secret state police). The Gestapo brutally beat and tortured her. Nonetheless, Sendler never revealed the names of the children or her colleagues. She was later released from the Gestapo prison thanks to a bribe organized by her fellow rescuers. Despite the dangers, Sendler continued working with Żegota under a new alias. 

Irena Sendler survived the war. In 1965, Yad Vashem recognized Sendler as Righteous Among the Nations.


  • Yad Vashem Photo Archives

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