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Monday, 12 July 2010

What Value the Nobel Prize?

Irena Sendler

I suppose that once upon a time the British Honours system did actually honour those whose lives and works distinguished them from the background noise. Today they are diminished because the modern trend to equalise everyone has meant that a fair proportion of those honoured are just ordinary people who have been selected because they have washed floors, delivered newspapers or seen children across the road for an exceptional period of time. Deeds of dedication certainly, but hardly enough to lift them that far above the rest of us, however their selection along with that of pop stars and other inconsequential celebrities has devalued the system.

The change is not confined to the British Honours, in the last decade or so it has also applied to the Nobel Prize which now seems to have become a mirror of popular opinion rather than a reflection of outstanding achievement. Awarded recently to President Obama, with no obvious reason it was said that it was for what he might achieve than for what he actually had. The following short story illustrates a much worse example.

During WWII, Irena Sendler contrived to get permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a Nurse. 
 She had a reason; she knew what the Nazi's were doing to the Jews. In 1942, the Nazis herded hundreds of thousands of Jews into a 16-block area that came to be known as the Warsaw Ghetto. It was sealed off and Jewish families ended up behind its walls, most of them to await certain death. Irena Sendler was so appalled by the conditions that she joined Zegota, the Council for Aid to Jews, organized by the Polish underground resistance movement. As one of its first recruits she directed its efforts to rescue Jewish children from that terrible place.

Able to enter the Ghetto legally, Irena managed to be issued a pass and visited daily, she took in food, medicines and clothing. But 5,000 people were dying each month from starvation and disease, and she decided to do her best to get as many of the children out as possible. For Irena Sendler, a young mother herself, persuading parents to part with their children was in itself a distressing task. Finding families on the outside willing to shelter the children, and thereby willing to risk their life if the Nazis ever found out, was also not easy.

Irena Sendler, who wore a star armband as a sign of her solidarity to Jews, began smuggling children out in an ambulance. She recruited at least one person from each of the ten centres of the Social Welfare Department. With their help, she issued hundreds of false documents with forged signatures. Irena Sendler successfully smuggled almost 2,500 Jewish children to safety and gave them temporary new identities.

Children were taken out in sacks or body bags ,others were buried inside loads of goods. One baby was smuggled out in a toolbox. Some were carried out in potato sacks, others were placed in coffins, and some entered a church in the Ghetto, which had two entrances. One entrance opened into the Ghetto, the other opened into the Aryan side of Warsaw. They entered the church as Jews and exited as Christians.

But the Nazis became aware of Irena's activities, and on October 20, 1943 she was arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo, who broke her feet and legs. She ended up in the Pawiak Prison, but they failed to break her spirit. She was the only one who knew the names and addresses of the families sheltering the Jewish children, she withstood the torture, that crippled her for life, refusing to betray either her associates or any of the Jewish children in hiding. Sentenced to death, Irena was saved at the last minute when Zegota members bribed one of the Gestapo agents to halt the execution. She escaped from prison but for the rest of the war the Nazis pursued her.

She carefully noted, in coded form, the children’s original names and their new identities. She kept the only record of their true identities in jars buried beneath an apple tree in a neighbour's back yard, hoping she could someday dig up the jars, locate the children and inform them of their past.

In all, the jars contained the names of 2,500 children...

After the war she dug up the jars and used the notes to track down the children she had saved to reunite them with relatives scattered across Europe, although most lost their families during the Holocaust in Nazi death camps.

In 2007 Irena Sendler was nominated for the Noble Prize, she didn’t get it, it was awarded instead to the charlatans at the IPCC and one of the biggest con artists and bandwagon jumpers in the world, Al Gore.

Irena Sendler passed away on Monday May 12th, 2008.

Sometimes I get so angry I think my head will burst!

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