Knowledge Under Siege | Irena Sendler: In Hiding

Anna Bikont, Sendlerowa. W ukryciu [Irena Sendler. In hiding] (Wołowiec: Czarne, 2017).

A social worker, Irena Sendler (1910-2008) belongs to the pantheon of Poland’s national heroes as a woman who saved 2500 Jewish children from the Holocaust. Numerous schools, streets, and squares bear her name. A national hero needs a biography to suit the nation, and that is how Sendler’s official biography was tailored. No historian has ever tried to verify the 2,500 figure. In fact, Sendler’s real biography does not produce the kind of hero for whom Poles erect monuments nowadays. Sendler is indeed a dazzling heroine. She would repeatedly sigh, “In occupied Warsaw it was much easier to find space in a living room for a huge tank than to find a place for one small Jewish child.” Through excavating the truth about Irena Sendler’s life, and the stories of the children she saved, Anna Bikont’s Sendlerowa. W ukryciu has also excavated numerous silenced facts pertaining to the stances and behaviors of Polish society during the war and what came after.

About the Speaker

Anna Bikont is a non-fiction writer. A member of the democratic opposition before 1989, she was a co-founder of Gazeta Wyborcza, the first independent daily in post-1989 Europe and the main newspaper in Poland. After 1989, she was a pioneer of investigative journalism in the newly-born free Polish media. In 2004 her book, “My z Jedwabnego” [We from Jedwabne], about the killing of the Jedwabne’s Jews by their Polish neighbors during World War II was part of a nationwide discussion in Poland about Polish-Jewish relations. In 2015, the English version, “The Crime and the Silence: Confronting the Massacre of the Jews in Wartime Jedwabne”, published by Farrar Straus and Giroux, was selected as one of the “100 Notable Books of the Year” by The New York Times and won one of the National Jewish Book Awards.



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Mar 15 2023


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