Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust

jars of hope

I remember my mom telling me something her mother used to say to her about racial issues:There are two kinds of people in this world: good and bad. I’m not so sure that sentiment is as facile as it may appear on the surface. It was a fairly progressive thing for an Irish immigrant to espouse in pre-war America, just as it turned out to be profoundly meaningful for Irena Sendler when her father told her the same thing about Jews before the Holocaust.  Author Jennifer Roy and illustrator Meg Owenson have documented an unsung, ordinary person doing something extraordinary.The hushed tones of the conditions are somber, but throughout the book there is always a hint of hope in the colors.

Sendler was a social worker in Warsaw when the ghetto was formed. She and others in the subversive group Zegota smuggled babies out of camps in trash carts, coffins, and sacks to private homes, orphanages, and convents. In order to save older children, they “converted” them to catholicism to change their identities. Underground sewer tunnels became escape labyrinths. I found myself getting caught up in the ingenuity of the rebels’ smuggling methods, the ugly necessity for them receding from my attention.

Sendler kept lists of the work that was done so children might be reunited with their parents someday. This is when the gestapo got on to her, arresting her and throwing her in a prison camp where she was tortured daily in an attempt to get the information on the lists. Zegota paid off a guard for her freedom, but she had to live in hiding. Eventually she located the friend who had hidden the lists for her, and they buried them in jars. After the war, most of the parents were found to have died, but some children were reunited, and the others at least knew of their origins.

There is a useful glossary, index, and list of references at end of the book for teachers who would like to explore the topic further. Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust is published by Capstone Young Readers and has 32 pages.

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