Irena Sendler: What to do when the world ends

Irena_Sendlerowa_1942And so the world didn’t end yesterday. The internet has treated it all as something of a joke, and probably rightly so, but what happens when the world does go to hell? What happens when society seems to be collapsing around you?

Irena Sendler was a social worker in forties Poland, a time when the ravages of Nazism and World War II were scarring Europe. Not global armageddon, sure, but the end of one world and the violent birth of another. A world in which innocent people were loaded into trains on their way to the Camps.Not an end of the world in which everything is snuffed out; no, this was an apocalypse people lived through, an apocalypse in which choices had to be made.

Sendler volunteered in the Warsaw Ghetto, volunteered to check for signs of typhus. This was tolerated by the Nazis, as no-one wanted the disease to spread beyond the Ghetto, but this allowed Sendler to smuggle children out to safety, in sacks and toolboxes and packages. In doing so, she saved 2,500 children from genocide.

The Gestapo eventually caught up with her, but strategic bribery saved her from execution. After the war she was declared to be one of the Righteous Among the Nations and was reportedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, She died in 2008 at the age of 98.

She’s not a household name on the level of Oskar Schindler, and I hope this post can do something towards rectifying that, but in the wake of an apocalypse deferred, it’s worth remembering those who stared down the darkness and made the right decisions when society was going to hell; worth remembering the stories that hold us together when the world is falling apart.


One thought on “Irena Sendler: What to do when the world ends

  1. Pingback: Holocaust Memorial Day 2013 | Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

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