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Knowledge Under Siege

Hosted By: YIVO

A social worker, Irena Sendler (1910-2008) belongs to the pantheon of Poland’s national heroes as a woman who saved 2500 Jewish children from the Holocaust. Numerous schools, streets, and squares bear her name. A national hero needs a biography to suit the nation, and that is how Sendler’s official biography was tailored. No historian has ever tried to verify the 2,500 figure. In fact, Sendler’s real biography does not produce the kind of hero for whom Poles erect monuments nowadays. Sendler is indeed a dazzling heroine. She would repeatedly sigh, “In occupied Warsaw it was much easier to find space in a living room for a huge tank than to find a place for one small Jewish child.” Through excavating the truth about Irena Sendler’s life, and the stories of the children she saved, Anna Bikont’s Sendlerowa. W ukryciu has also excavated numerous silenced facts pertaining to the stances and behaviors of Polish society during the war and what came after.

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