A True World War II, Spy Adventure on this Veterans Day

H/T PJ Media.

This is a very interesting story.
We are still free Thanks to men like John(Jack)L.Behling.

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Most of us think we know all about soldiers and spies because we follow the actors who play such roles on television and in the movies. Thus, we see actors engaging in a lot of “action,” and we—at least those of us who have not been soldiers or spies—learn to suspend all disbelief. We are used to seeing a month long battle or even an entire war begin and end within an hour or two, and we leave the theater knowing that, in the end, the “good guys and gals” always triumph.

This is crazy. Even though I myself am an avid fan of television’s NCIS, and most of the World War Two movies (Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Saving Private Ryan, etc.), I am far more interested in the stories of real life soldiers and spies. I want to know what they think, what they do, how they learn their craft. Recently, an incredibly dignified hero came my way.

First, a letter arrived in the old-fashioned manner. The author cordially addressed me as a “colleague in the field of terrorism.” He asked whether I might like to read his unpublished manuscript about Islam and terrorism.

I was about to say no when, on a hunch, I agreed to look at his work.

A package soon arrived which weighed at least five pounds. I opened it and almost immediately began to read his book, which is tentatively titled: The DNA of Terrorism. The work, which focuses on Islamic fundamentalism, is very, very good. Now, I was curious about the author. I wanted to know how he came by this extraordinary knowledge.

Before I could even reach for the phone, he called and suggested we meet. He said:

I must tell you that both I and my wife still adhere to a 1930s dress code.

I plowed through my closet wondering what in God’s name to wear. Gloves? A hat? Nylon stockings? I ended up wearing what I usually do.

Next: “This example of double volunteerism constitutes the essence of patriotism.”

A tall, trim, dapper, white-haired man was waiting for me in my lobby. John (Jack) L. Behling is 91 years old and, although he sports an attractive cane, he still stands ramrod straight. His eyes are piercing. John wears a jaunty beret and his jacket is festooned with possibly six rows of military medals and ribbons representing his patriotic service in the United States infantry, paratroops, and intelligence corps.

Behling was a combat soldier in World War Two. He also worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and became an undercover espionage agent (a spy) in Europe. He also served in the U.S. Army and Air Force intelligence services and as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Department of State. Later, he became a diplomat and a professor.

Behling has written an important, even unique, book about Islam, terrorism, the Muslim mind-set, “stealth” jihad, and counterterrorism. I realized that his steely, quiet, but daring deeds as a soldier and an intelligence officer would be of great interest to readers. I urged him to go public with some of his adventures on behalf of America’s and Europe’s freedom. Finally, but reluctantly (“I’ve made my report in full to the proper authorities, this information is in the hands of the right people”), he agreed to go on the record with me. Here is part of our conversation.

Q: How does one become a spy? How did you become a spy?

A: To join the OSS, one had first to volunteer; no one was ever ordered, transferred, or conscripted into OSS without volunteering. Once an OSS-er, one had to volunteer for “mission status.” This example of double volunteerism constitutes the essence of patriotism.

Q: What skills must a spy have?

A: Gen. Donovan, whom President Roosevelt personally chose as his “Co-ordinator of Information,” always stressed imagination and “thinking outside the box.” There is always the unexpected event, the crisis, which must be met without long periods of study and planning. And most likely there will only be one chance, and one chance only, to devise an on-the-spot reaction to crisis or danger to the mission. During peacetime, physical fitness is not so necessary, but it is still helpful. In wartime, it is an absolute requirement. Dedication is a mental fitness; one does not “give up” trying, no matter the circumstances.

Q: What is daily life like in the field?

A: Secret intelligence is a lonely occupation. One gets no mail from home, one cannot communicate with any outside, back-home location or person. Even “chit-chat” with someone in the field is dangerous. One’s linguistic guard is let down, if what is said is not carefully planned and memorized. The agent sleeps very lightly and is constantly alert and on guard with respect to his surroundings. Is someone watching or following me? What exit route can I take if need arises? Is my “contact” under surveillance, waiting for me to show up? Are my contacts equally alert and careful? How can I be sure of anything? If caught, what shall I do to make the earliest possible escape? Will I have to kill my captor? What means will I use? How will I dispose of the body? Will there be a follow up search for me? Will my cover hold up or do I need to manufacture a new one? I have a food and money stash; can I reach it or will it be too dangerous? Every possible vision of disaster runs constantly, like an endless loop through the agent’s mind. All of the above creates a mental tenseness, which must be masked and kept hidden. An agent is often a victim of acid indigestion and has difficulty sleeping.

Next: Why did General Donovan buy refugees’ old clothing?

Q: What do you remember about General Donovan?

A: Donovan immediately approached every refugee coming from Europe and offered to buy the refugees’ old clothing, pens, pencils, match books, pocket litter in general. Why? Because he foresaw the future need for secret agent operations, and they would have to have European-made clothing, watches, etc.

Q: Once they knew that you could speak fluent German without an accent, some Russian, and some Japanese, how did the OSS train you?

A: I was sent to Bari, Italy, to learn Morse code, radio key practice, secure codes and code pads, explosives, RAF jump training, document forgery, photography, and target area study. I practiced these skills with three other paratroopers, one of whom was immediately arrested by the Gestapo because of a failure to recognize a danger signal in radio traffic.

Q: What was your first mission?

A: I was to report on the Herman Goering steel works outside of Linz, Austria. We jumped from British bombers. We used British chutes, which were better than the U.S. chutes at the time. We jumped in uniform, hoping to claim POW status if captured. Another detail was to check the tightness of the harness just before jumping— loose harness straps could leave a bruise on one’s chest or shoulder, something the Gestapo always looked for.

Q: What kind of gun did you carry?

A: We had complete freedom of choice as to weaponry. I chose a small Walther PPK automatic 6.25 mm caliber, and a knife designed for the U.S. Army by British Major Fairbairn (of Hong Kong fame). It was basically a 7-inch bladed stiletto. I carried it on a chain or thong around my neck, hanging down my spine, where I could reach it from a “hands-up” position.

Q: Once you jumped, what did you do with your chute?

A: I buried it together with a small entrenching shovel I carried. I looked for another spot and buried my radio and battery pack. A third spot took whatever I could not carry openly. I wrote myself directions to find these spots again but I wrote it in code, as part of a poem.

Next: Why a spy needs to know how to improvise…

Q: Where did you sleep? Or live?

A: The answer is I slept wherever I happened to be fighting: On the ground, a park bench, a haystack, in a railroad waiting room. I could not rent a room—the police control was too tight. I was essentially a street person. The region was thoroughly Nazi as Adolph Hitler went to school in Linz as a child. I had to find out whether the steel plant was back up and running or still out of commission (after an Allied bombing). I could not just go in and inspect. Day after day, I went to the plant area and hung around with a cup of coffee as if I were a worker. I talked. I listened. I asked questions. Eventually, I was able to construct the answer to this question: No, we did not have to bomb this facility again.

Q: What was your next mission?

A: I was called to Salzburg because I knew some Japanese. All the Japanese diplomats had been rounded up in Berlin and were being kept at a ski resort in Austria. As diplomats, they could not be questioned. But we needed to know 1) Will the German U-boats join up with the Japanese and continue to fight? 2) Will the Japanese government now be willing to discuss surrender? Until now, “surrender” was a forbidden word.

It was suggested that I pass as a waiter. I turned this down. This was a small town and such jobs are inherited family positions. Everyone would know that I did not belong. I came up with a cover story. I would be a guard. I chose the dining room and evening mealtime as my main assignment. The Japanese all spoke German to the hotel staff. I starting talking in German too. They noticed and became curious. I counted on all foreigners believing America was a one-language country and that Americans never did learn a foreign language fluently. (Behling speaks German without an accent.)

Pretty soon, the ambassador, Baron Oshima, approached me and asked how come an American spoke German so easily. That gave me my opening. “But I’m not really an American. I was born in Germany, my father was a professor and we were in the USA on an educational exchange; Hitler declared war, and I was put in an American internment camp for the rest of the war. They put me in here to work off my indebtedness.”

Now, suddenly, it was different. I was one of them—I was an ex-internee. They had a hundred questions to ask: What was it like to be interned in America, what could they expect, what was the American opinion about the war, about invasion casualties? All I had to do was channel the conversation, and pose questions indirectly, obliquely, and answers were forthcoming. On submarines, the ambassador and military attaché told me that the Germans would never get past the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean, but even if they did, they would stay tied up at Japanese docks, as Japan didn’t have enough fuel for its own subs.

To my surprise, the Japanese believed that if the present government gave way to another, more liberal government, surrender might be discussed. They said it “could be done in around three month.” At that point in time, (we) had no knowledge of the Atomic bomb. But, counting from the time that I was talking with Oshima early in May, three months takes you right up to August 1945, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Next: Uncovering a Soviet nuclear facility…

Q: Tell me something about your post-war work as an intelligence analyst.

A: I was assigned to work with the power and fuel team on the Soviet economy and further given personal responsibility for analyzing basic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, atomic energy.

While reading a local 6-page Russian newspaper from the Central Asian state of Tajikistan, I came across an announcement of a local power blackout. No light bulbs over a certain wattage, no exterior lighting, rolling brown-outs, etc. Now Tajikistan is mostly mountains and desert, with a sparse fruit and vegetable cultivation in fertile valleys. Subsistence farming, barely commercial. Not much demand for power. I asked: “Why the big fuss?” Lo and behold, I found that a huge hydroelectric power plant and dam had been finished on the Syr Darya River only a few miles from the black-out area.

Where was all that power going while the small community needs were being denied? I finally told the chief of my section that I had a problem. I said, “I have no data to back me up, but I have an educated guess. I think they might be separating uranium isotopes and starting an enrichment program. It’s (an) ideal area for security purposes; it’s closed to all foreigners. And it’s off the beaten track for almost anything.”

I wrote it up, classified it, and turned it in. A month or so later, the Soviet representative in the United Nations raised a big stink there, complaining about US over flights in that very same area, coming in from the Persian Gulf. Years later, I heard from a third party source that such a facility had been identified there.

My wife is fond of saying, “I know Jack would never leave me for another woman, but I am not so sure about another intelligence mission.” I have to admit there is an element of truth in her statement.

******

I offer this interview as a token of my appreciation and as a contribution to all the men and women who are currently serving or who have ever served our country in a military or intelligence capacity.

******

Flag illustration courtesy Shutterstock.

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Veterans Day and Me

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I want to explain why veterans day is so important to me.

My uncle, Private First Class Frank Walters was a Rail Splitter in World War II.

He was in the 84th Infantry Division, 334th Infantry Regiment.

I have since learned he was part of what became to be known as the Lost Platoons of Fox Company.

Fox Company went on patrol on Friday, December 1,1944 then two platoons got separated and on Sunday  December, 3,1944 ended up about 6 miles behind German lines the batteries in their walkie talkies were dead they were unable to communicate.

They got hit by The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich and when the battle ended only four platoon members were alive.

Frank is my mother’s older brother, she was nine when he was killed.

Over the years I have been alive, I have made friends with several veterans.

Between Uncle Frank and my veteran friends I have made it part of my life’s mission to help tell the stories of veterans and their struggles.

I am also teaching our daughters to honor and respect our veterans. 

Remains of B-17 Gunner Identified

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Army Air Force Staff Sgt. Willard R. Best.

B-17 Ball Gunner
B-17 Ball Gunner

In August 1944, Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Willard R. Best was a 24-year-old gunner on a B-17 assigned to the 407th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 40th Combat Bombardment Wing, 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force.

The Staunton, Illinois, native was part of a nine-man crew in a B-17 Flying Fortress during a bombing raid over Merseburg, Germany, on August 24th. The plane was caught by anti-aircraft fire and crashed. Four crew members survived and were captured by the Germans. The rest, including Best, were killed in the crash.

The remains of Best were reported to have been interred in the Leipzig-Lindenthal Cemetery. When the war was over, the American Graves Registration Command disinterred three sets of remains from that cemetery. Two of the three could not be identified at the time.

B-17 waist gunners
B-17 waist gunners

They were declared unidentifiable and were assigned the designations Unknown X-1047 and X-183. X-1047 was determined to be the remains of two separate individuals and redesignated X-1047A and X-1047B after separation. The three sets of remains were buried in the American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries in 2017.

Volunteers notified the DPAA about the burials of unknown service members which could be related to the B-17 crash. A DPAA historian researched the claim and declared that the unidentified remains could very well be from that crash.

In April of 2019, the Department of Defense and the ABMC disinterred three sets of remains and sent them to the DPAA laboratory for identification. Scientists working for the DPAA and for the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used anthropological evidence and mitochondrial DNA to positively identify one of the sets of remains as belonging to Best on September 3, 2019. The discovery was announced by the DPAA on October 24, 2019.

B-17 damaged in collision with Fw190 in head-on attack
B-17 damaged in collision with Fw190 in head-on attack

Best’s name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium. A rosette will be placed next to his name to recognize that he has now been identified.

Best was born to Otto and Lena Best from Staunton, Illinois. He was the brother of Leland Elmer Best, Joyce Best and Harold C. Best. He was married to Alma L. Best of Decatur, Illinois, when he died. His remains will be buried in his hometown in the spring of 2020.

Sixteen million Americans served in World War II. Over 400,000 of them died in the war. There are still 72,650 service members who are unaccounted for from WWII. 30,000 of those are listed as possibly recoverable.

Gunners in B-17 bombers were responsible for fighting off enemy fighter planes with machine guns that were either aimed by hand or electrically powered. Half of a bomber crew was typically gunners who worked the top turret, ball turret, waist guns and the tail turret.

Top turret gunners usually served as the flight engineer for the crew. In addition to protecting the plane from attacks from above, he was expected to know all the systems on the plane and keep track of the engines and fuel on the flight.

Oldest Marine Who Survived Iwo Jima Passes at 103

H/T Godfather Politics.

R.I.P. John Moon

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The oldest Marine that survived the brutal WWII Battle of Iwo Jima has passed away at 103.

John Moon of Macomb, Illinois, died last week at the ripe old age of 103. According to Chicago’s WGN Channel 9, the Marine and Western Illinois University alum had risen to viral fame at the age of 101 for singing the national anthem at a WIU women’s basketball game in 2017.

Mr. Moon joined the Marines in 1943 as a 1939 WIU graduate, father of a young son, and a worker for the Caterpillar Tractor Company in East Peoria, Illinois. Moon chose the Marines after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He enlisted on Dec. 29, 1943.

After graduating boot camp, Moon was assigned to the 5th Marine Division.

Moon’s division participated in the amphibious assault on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. He participated in the battle until he was injured. He was later awarded the Purple Heart in September of 1945 for his wounding during the battle.

Upon returning home, Moon held a series of jobs including restaurant worker, school bus driver, and insurance salesman. He also taught driver’s education in his later years.

Moon’s obituary noted that he was an active member of his community, supporting the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion as well as the Optimist Club and the local Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs. Moon was a lifelong member of the Wesley United Methodist Church where he sang in the choir and drove elderly churchgoers to Sunday services.

The veteran was also a Freemason and once served as a Macomb City Council Alderman.

“John was a well-known and loved member of the community. Many will miss hearing his amazing singing voice, watching him ride his three-wheel bike, and his ‘fantastic’ attitude,” his obituary added.

In lieu of flowers, Moon’s family said donations can be made to Wesley United Methodist Church or Wesley Village Retirement Center.

 

Let’s All be of Help – Jim “Pee Wee” Martin Furnace Fundraiser

H/T War History OnLine.

Let’s all help Jim”Pee Wee” Martin stay warm this winter with a new furnace.

Please help me spread the word about this fundraiser.

Veteran 101st Airborne paratrooper Pfc. Jim "Pee Wee" Martin reminisces about D-Day at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Lisa Ferdinando)
Veteran 101st Airborne paratrooper Pfc. Jim “Pee Wee” Martin reminisces about D-Day at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo Credit: Lisa Ferdinando)

In 1941 and shortly after the date which will live in Infamy 7 Dec the day Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, Jim Martin decided to leave his job as a Machinist Apprentice (a job which qualified him for deferment from Military Service) and join the Armed Forces.

Jim’s first choice was the Navy.  He had always been a fan of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and wanted to be a Submariner, Jim signed the paperwork and then was told it would be at least 2 to 4 weeks before he would ship off for training.

Jim, impatient to leave walked across the hallway to the Army Recruitment Office and joined the newly formed US Army Paratroopers. Four weeks into his Army training the Navy sent Police to Jim’s Parents home because he was AWOL for his reporting date to the Navy, they showed them letters from Jim addressed from his Army Basic Training and that was that.

ww2 paratrooper
Jim “Pee Wee” Martin

Jim did his Infantry Training in Taccoa, GA at Camp Taccoa and his Parachute Training at Fort Benning, GA.  While training in Taccoa he was assigned to G Company, 506th PIR, 101st ABD…he also was nick named “Pee Wee” by his fellow Paratroopers because he was the smallest man in the company.

Jim “Pee Wee” Martin served with distinction as an Infantry Mortar-men with Combat Jumps into both Operation Overlord Normandy, France (D-Day) on 06 June 1944 and Operation Market Garden Holland on 17 September 1944.  Jim endured combat and the harsh conditions of the Battle of the Bulge on through to the end of the war with the 506th’s taking of the famed “Eagles Nest” Hitler’s Alpine retreat.

Jim “Pee Wee” Martin
Jim “Pee Wee” Martin

Being a “High Point Man” Jim was one of the first to come home from the war.

Pee Wee wasted no time after the war and went back to work as a Machinist Apprentice, Married and built his home that he still lives in today with his own two hands!  Jim will proudly tell you that he hammered every nail…

Soldiers of 82nd and 101st Airborne Division soldiers holding a captured Nazi flag in Normandy
Soldiers of 82nd and 101st Airborne Division soldiers holding a captured Nazi flag in Normandy

The Round Canopy Parachute Team USA (RCPT-USA) rcptusa.org recently sponsored Jim to do a Tandem Parachute Jump in Holland onto the same Drop Zone that he landed on for Operation Market Garden 75 years earlier.

We also learned that Jim’s home Furnace was no longer functional and he is dependent on his children who themselves are in their mid to late 60’s to deliver him firewood for a small home wood burning stove so he can keep warm with the additional help of electric blankets in the cold Ohio winter.

We, (RCPT-USA) took it upon ourselves to start a fundraiser to raise funds to help Jim get a new furnace for his home.

Jim reluctantly agreed to let us do this for him with the strict understanding that any additional funds raised would go into a fund in his name to help Disabled Veterans and Veterans with Financial needs participate with the team in our mission to honor the WWII Paratroopers.

Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate employee Kevin Price (left) and World War II veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Holly Jordan)
Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate employee Kevin Price (left) and World War II veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Holly Jordan)

Rcptusa.org is a 501c3 Non-Profit that not only honors the memory of the WWII Paratroopers but we also actively work with and train Veterans from all branches of the armed services how to safely jump from aircraft utilizing military and military style Round Canopy Parachutes.

The comradery of the team is second to none and we truly feel that not only do we honor the memory of the WWII Paratroops but we are also “Saving Lives…..Because it’s more than just a Jump”

All donations for Jim “Pee Wee” Martin will go to first completely replace his broken furnace in his home and secondly, the remaining funds will go into a fund in his honor with RCPT to help Veterans “Get their Knees in the Breeze”.

Donate here:   https://www.gofundme.com/f/furnace-repl-for-dday-paratrooper-peewee-martin

Divers Discover WWII “earthquake” Bomb in Shipping Channel

H/T War History OnLine.

Until now I have never heard about an earthquake bomb.

The Tallboy was a 5.5-ton seismic bomb
The Tallboy was a 5.5-ton seismic bomb

One of Poland’s busiest shipping channels just happens to be the location of one of the largest unexploded WWII bombs ever found in the country.

Employees of a German company were working to deepen and widen the Piast Channel when they discovered the Tallboy bomb. The Tallboy was a 5.5-ton seismic bomb which used by the British to destroy targets underground. It is one of the largest bombs used in WWII. The detonation of a Tallboy would trigger an earthquake that would destroy the target.

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Also known as the Earthquake Bomb

The Piast Channel starts in the Baltic port of Świnoujście in the northwest part of Poland and runs to the Szczecin Lagoon.

The bomb was reported by the company on  Monday, September 16, 2019.  Polish Navy divers then examined the bomb and analyzed it  and they were able to confirm that the bomb is a British Tallboy.

Tallboys were used by the British Dambuster squadron. On April 16, 1945, the squadron attacked the German cruiser Lützow that was anchored in the channel.  Lt. Commander Grzegorz Lewandowski of Poland’s 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla stated that the bomb is most likely one that missed its intended target.

RAF crew
RAF pilots checking their maps before flying on a bombing raid. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

This is not the first British bomb from WWII found in the channel while work has been going on. In August, a British air-dropped Mark VI navy mine was found. In July, a Mark IV mine was discovered.

Despite the massive firepower present in the bomb, the shipping channel has not been closed. According to Lewandowski, since the bomb had been sitting there for 74 years, they saw no reason to shut down the channel.

WW2 ship
The Lützow after being attacked by Allied bombers in 1945.

On September 20, 2019, a crisis team met to formulate a plan on how to remove the bomb. There is a need for abundant caution since the bombs have 2,400 kilograms of explosives with a blast radius of 13 kilometers.

About 160 residents needed to be evacuated when each of the smaller mines were found. For the Tallboy, it is possible that the entire town of 41,000 may need to be evacuated.

The bomb will need to be dug up as it is very well buried in the bottom of the channel.

The Tallboy was designed by the legendary British bomb inventor Barnes Wallis to bury deep into the ground. It was typically used to destroy German underground submarine shelters in occupied France.

tallboy
Invented by the British aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis

The bomb was so large that the Avro Lancaster bomber had to be specially modified to fit it. All extraneous equipment was removed from the plane. Even defensive guns were removed.

Near the end of WWII, the British became determined to destroy the German cruiser Lützow. It was a source of pride of the German Kriegsmarine and had originally been named the Deutschland. Hitler became concerned that it was too tempting a target to the Allies with that name, so it was renamed.

The Lützow was damaged several times and used as a training ship until put back into action in 1945. The RAF’s 617 squadron finally sank the Lützow on April 16, 1945. It lay under water until the Russians salvaged it and sank it again with experimental weapons.

Gal Gadot to Play Polish Heroine, ‘Irena Sendler’ in Holocaust Drama

H/T War History OnLine.

This should be a good movie.

Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 3.0/ Irena Sendler
Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 3.0/ Irena Sendler

Gal Gadot, the Israeli born star of 2017’s Wonder Woman movie has confirmed that she will produce and star in a new film version of the life of Polish wartime heroine Irena Sendler.

Gal Gadot recently set up new production company, Pilot Wave, with her husband Jaron Varsano, and together with Warner Brothers, and producer Marc Platt a buzz is already growing around the project.

The screenwriter for the movie Harry Haft, Justine Juel Gillmer has been brought in to develop the story of Irena Sendler for the big screen. The movie is promised to be an exciting historical thriller in the best tradition of Hollywood high-stakes war pictures.

Jewish children in the Warsaw GhettoBundesarchiv, N 1576 Bild-003 / Herrmann, Ernst / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto
Bundesarchiv, N 1576 Bild-003 / Herrmann, Ernst / CC-BY-SA 3.0

It opens with the arrest of Sendler by the Gestapo and becomes a race against time to save the lives of thousands of Jewish children smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto.

At the beginning of WWII Warsaw had one of the largest Jewish populations of any city in Europe but by late 1942 more than 280,000 people had been forcibly deported to Treblinka.

Irena Sendler was a social worker before the War, and during the occupation she continued her role helping low income families and the homeless of the city.

In 1940, when the notorious Warsaw ghetto had been sealed off, imprisoning 400,000 Jews in desperate conditions, Sendler applied for and received a permit to enter to inspect sanitary conditions.

The German occupiers were concerned that any outbreak of typhus could spread to the rest of the city and were happy to allow the young Polish social worker access.

Once inside the ghetto she was able to make contact with the Jewish welfare organisation within its walls and became instrumental in the smuggling of children back out.

Gal Gadot. Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0
Gal Gadot. Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0

Using her contacts within the network of Polish orphanages and institutes set up for the welfare of the city’s abandoned children she was able to hide an estimated two and a half thousand children.

As a mark of solidarity with the Jewish population she wore a Star of David on her coat. During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising she organised a network of safe houses across the city in which Jews were able to hide while documents and long-term placements could be made.

The children were taught Christian prayers and their names were changed. They were tested to make sure they had memorised them, in case questions were asked by the authorities.

The atmosphere in the city of Warsaw was highly charged, with an active Polish Resistance and a broad network of people committed to undermining the German occupation.

Sendler with some people she saved as children, Warsaw, 2005. Mariusz Kubik CC BY 3.0
Sendler with some people she saved as children, Warsaw, 2005. Mariusz Kubik CC BY 3.0

Sendler came to the attention of the Nazi Gestapo in late 1943, who suspected she held a key position in the Polish Underground. Before her arrest on October 20th, 1943 she had just enough warning to be able to hide the coded addresses of the hidden children and the large sums of money that were used to pay off her co-conspirators.

Sendler withstood torture by the Gestapo, who failed to draw any useful information from her.  The names and locations of the children she had helped were never revealed.

Eventually, she was sentenced to death for her alleged actions and was sent to Pawiak prison. She was released in February 1944 after bribes were paid to her captors and spent the rest of the war continuing her work underground and out of sight.

The authorities remained interested in her movements and she had to go into hiding to direct her clandestine operations.

Sendler said of her activities during the war that “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.” She died in 2008. A release date is yet to be set for the movie.