"Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory." (Irena Sendler)
Los Angeles -- I make my living in various aspects of the Entertainment medium. And being a working stiff in the City of Angeles, over time you tend to develop a thick skin, jaded by the years of struggle, rejection, ridicule and an occasional valedictory triumph of professional recognition. It can take a toll even on the most seasoned cynic in this town of rejected dreams and failures. Yet as dark as this might seem to the uninitiated, it is doable and survivable even winnable when you compare what you are going through to those who survived and triumphed in the face of the most beastly period of the modern era; the murder of over six million Jews and 10 million Christians in a systematic, organized, industrialized factory style murder mill, complete with quotas and an infrastructure of rail that crisscrossed a continent between ghettos and death camps at a time when the world was at war and madness ruled with an iron grip.
Some historians claim that Hitler lost the war because he not only fought two fronts but three. The third obviously the murder of unarmed, innocent civilians, young and old, male and female without the slightest bit of remorse all for the mythological belief in racial purity and superiority. They were right. The resources the Third Reich assigned to the "special treatment" of those who were classified as "sub-human" deprived Nazi Germany of the needed resources to wage a successful campaign of conquest, not that it would have been successful. By the mid 1940's it was evident to any sane German the war of annihilation waged by Adolf Hitler was quickly turning into their own annihilation.
Which brings us to another notion often misunderstood yet quite the opposite. The Germans as efficient and brutal as they were at the onset of the war could not fully subjugate, even with the systematic murder techniques of the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi death squads who were primarily charged with the mass shootings in the East, the captive population. Resistance was more prevalent than previously known and as the WWII generation dies out more and more stories have emerged to support this premise. Aside from group resistance, like the heroic Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, you had individual resistance that defied all logic in the face of overwhelming odds and a fanatical, religious zeal to complete the Nazi master plan as defeat loomed nearer and nearer in the closing days of the war.
In the passing years since the end of the Second World War stories emerged of heroism from all sides especially individuals who risked and lost their lives in the pursuit of God's humanity. Yet their were some who would continue life inconspicuously for years even decades until fate cast its unflinching light upon them. Examples of these living Saints who gave up all for all include Oskar Schindler, Raul Wallenberg, Chiune Sugihara, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Varian Fry, Tatsuo Osako, Griogio Perlasca, John Rabe, Abdol Hossein Sardari, Nicholas Winton, Jan Zwartendijk and Irena Sendler.
Of particualr interest is Irena Sendler who as a Polish social worker rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto before her capture in 1943. What is remarkable isn't just her story of survival and triumph but how that story was told a half century later by school girls in the Midwest researching the Holocaust for a school project who came upon her story and adapted it for the stage as "Life in a Jar". Here is a clip of what they did.
In 1999, in Uniontown Kansas, high school teacher Norm Conard and a handful of students stumbled across an unknown hero from the holocaust, Irena Sendler. A research project intended for the classroom soon sparked the interest of the world, and forever changed the lives of everyone involved.
The Hallmark Channel would go on to produce a feature on Irena Sendler's exploits. I debated whether or not to post the film or even trailer but I chose not too. What you have is more than enough to tell the story of courage and sacrifice that can only come from the heart. I must admit I knew the story but as you get bombarded with WWII stories after a while you become jaded especially when you work in the media. My inbox in piled high with stories, leads and internet links on anything and everything that pertains to media. Be it Film, Video, TV, Cable, Satellite, Radio, Music, Gaming, Theater, well you get where I am heading...it is a complete media overload. Yet it wasn't until a friend sent me a link on his Facebook that I seriously took a look back at Irena Sendler, remembering the Hallmark feature. It reminded me of a story I worked on several years back on the courage of another rescuer of Jews, a Japanese diplomat, Chiune Sugihara who saved countless Jews in Lithuania at the outbreak of the war. He too received well deserved recognition years later for his selfless sacrifice in spite of the perilous situation at that time.
If there is a lesson here it is that the courage of the heart begins with a heart of courage. For it is their in the midst of our doubts and fears that we draw the strength to be doers instead of observers. Especially at a time when hesitancy is death and decisiveness is life. It takes a person of faith to rise above fear and its paralytic panic to do what is right despite the specter of death looming just before him and her. One such person was Irena Sendler a woman who had courage of the heart.
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