Friday, March 16, 2007

True Courage

Although it might seem odd one of the things that led me to join the Royal Marines some years ago (I've long since left) was the Holocaust. That might seem to not make much sense but I was raised to understand the terrible, terrible things that were done to the Jews (and others) of Europe by the Nazis. Here in supposedly civilised, enlightened Europe an attempt was made to try and exterminate all those of the Jewish faith; it's entirely irrational- insane- and yet a whole country went along with it. I believe that the British military is a force for good in the world- and so I decided to volunteer to do my part to fight for freedom. Going to war, to battle, requires a certain amount of courage- but that courage pales into insignificance compared to the awesome bravery of Irena Sendler.

Sendler led about 20 helpers who smuggled Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto to safety between 1940 and 1943, placing them in Polish families, convents or orphanages. She wrote the children’s names on slips of paper and buried them in jars in a neighbor’s yard as a record that could help locate their parents after the war. The Nazis arrested her in 1943, but she refused - despite repeated torture - to reveal their names.

While soldiers go to war alongside their comrades, armed and with the full might of an army behind them, Irena Sendler chose to risk her life to save Jewish children from evil men- and despite being tortured by the Nazis she did not falter. She was part of a group called the Council for Assisting Jews (most of them Catholic) and it is calculated that she saved 2,500 children. She actually had the amazing bravery to sneak some of the children out of the Ghetto right in front of the Nazi guards.

“Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory,” Sendler said in a letter read by Elzbieta Ficowska, who was saved by Sendler as a baby. “Over a half-century has passed since the hell of the Holocaust, but its specter still hangs over the world and doesn’t allow us to forget the tragedy.”

Sendler actually carried her out of the Ghetto as a 5 month old baby in a carpenter's box. She is an example to us all.

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