Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker with the city’s welfare department when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, launching. Warsaw’s Jews were forced into a walled-off ghetto.
Seeking to save the ghetto’s children, Sendler masterminded risky rescue operations. Under the pretext of inspecting sanitary conditions during a typhoid outbreak, she and her assistants ventured inside the ghetto — and smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and in trams, sometimes wrapped up as packages. …
In hopes of one day uniting the children with their families — most of whom perished in the Nazis’ death camps — Sendler wrote the children’s real names on slips of paper that she kept at home.
When German police came to arrest her in 1943, an assistant managed to hide the slips, which Sendler later buried in a jar under an apple tree in an associate’s yard. Some 2,500 names were recorded. …
The Nazis took her to the notorious Pawiak prison, which few people left alive. Gestapo agents tortured her repeatedly, leaving Sendler with scars on her body — but she refused to betray her team.
“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 2007 in a letter to the Polish Senate after lawmakers honored her efforts in 2007.
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edited the anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015 and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.