“I continue to have qualms of conscience that I did so little.” – Irena Sendler
There are some stories that are almost too amazing to be true. Irena Sendler was part of a network that helped save more than 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto, along with many other teens and adults. As a university student at the time of the German invasion, she and her friends were full of a rebellious spirit that they used for good to help both their Jewish friends and strangers. While Irena focuses on how she was part of a group, she was also one of the leaders and the person who kept the log of children’s true names and families.
I originally heard of Irena Sendler when I watched the Hallmark movie about her life. The number of lives she was a part of saving is incredible! Her story was almost lost to history until some high school students discovered it. My mother read Irena’s Children and recommended it to me and I knew I would want to know more details about Irena’s story.
Irena’s Children gives an in-depth background into Irena and her life before the war. It is heavily researched and gives the stories of other people in her network and of some of the children she helped save. The book shares the good and the bad, noting that no person is a complete saint, but she can still do good. The hardest part to read is when Irena was captured and tortured for information on her network. Her two saving graces were the SS not knowing how high up in the network she was and a well-placed bribe that convinced a soldier to let her go out a side door right before her scheduled execution. She needed to live to be able to reunite parents and their children, if it was possible.
I highly recommend this book to any high school age (mature) reader or older. The Nazi tactics and violence would be hard for some younger readers. There is a young reader edition of the story, but I’m not sure what age it would be appropriate for. Irena’s story is one that people need to know. It shows how one person or a group of people can make a huge difference in the lives of others. You end up thinking if you would be able to do the same thing. I would recommend this book alongside The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and Bohnhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.