Friday, October 09, 2009

And in the continuing category of things that make me cry….

Immediately, with almost no warm up, I will cry at the end of the film, Schindler’s List. I don’t even need to watch the entire movie, although that is a very emotional experience every time I do. No, I need only the last few scenes and I’m overcome. The sight of the people who survived the horror of the Holocaust largely because of Oskar Schindler and his dedication to doing what was right is enough for me. The survivors filing past his grave, placing stones in tribute to the man and his life on his memorial move me to tears.

I watched the end of the movie recently and once again recalled the story of Irena Sendler. Like Oskar Schindler, Yad Veshem recognized Sendler as a righteous Gentile and the organization planted a tree in her honor in 1989. In fact, there are thousands of people the organization has recognized for their humanitarian efforts.

Sendler was a Polish woman who rescued more than two thousand Jewish children from inside the Warsaw Ghetto and other locations in Poland during World War II. You can read more about Irena and her life-saving and life-altering efforts on Life in a Jar website. She was a humble, sincere, dedicated, courageous, and selfless. She also suffered cruelly for her efforts, including imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Gestapo.

In May 2008, at the age of 98, Irena Sendler met with some of the cast members of Life in a Jar, a play written about her rescue operation. She told them: “You have changed Poland, you have changed the United States, you have changed the world [by bringing Irena’s story to light, Poland has seen great changes in Holocaust education, in the perception of the time and have provided a grand hero for their country and the world]. I love you very, very much.”

I love that quote. I love the fact that it’s only because of her efforts, and the people who worked with her, risking their very lives, that the dramatization of her life even exists. But the only time she uses the first person “I” is to express her love for the cast who portrays her story.

Sendler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. That year, the award was given to Vice President Al Gore, for his commitment to enlightening the world and leading the fight against global warming (now called climate change.)

In other news, we congratulate the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner: President Barack Obama.


Kelly said...

I immediately thought of Irena Sendler when I heard the news regarding the Nobel Peace prize for this year. Thank you for bringing to light the story of this truly remarkable peace leader.

renee said...

Thanks for your comment Kelly.

I think once I recognized the award for what it has become - a political statement of philosphical alignment - it became less upsetting.

The unfortunate result is, of course, that people like Irena will go unrecognized and largely unknown as a result of politcal agendas. But the truth is, people like her are not about awards and recognition, which makes them that much more admirable.

Thanks again for your comment.