Women heroines of World War II who changed the course of history
What makes a woman a heroine?
Saving lives? Correct actions, despite the huge risk, even to the detriment of their own security?
The following three women fit this description. They led an ordinary life before being in extraordinary circumstances that forced them to change the world.
Irena Sendler: the angel of the Warsaw ghetto
"Every child I saved with the help of wonderful secret messengers justifies my existence on this Earth and is by no means a matter of fame."
Irena Slender was a Polish social worker who was not yet thirty years old when World War II swept her country.
She witnessed how the Nazis occupied Poland and founded a Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. In a tiny space huddled hundreds of thousands of people. People began to die from poor hygienic conditions.
Being a non-Jewish social worker, Irena Sendler convinced officials to allow her to come to the ghetto to treat people. A woman risked her own life when she secretly took the children out of the ghetto and, using fake IDs, sent them abroad.
Sendler carefully captured the identity of each child. She wrote down the data about the children on a sheet of paper and hid it in a jar that she kept buried under the ground.
When officials learned of the secret activities of Sendler in 1943, they imprisoned her and tortured her. But the woman resolutely kept her mouth shut.
In the end, Sendler was sentenced to death for her “criminal activities”. She was saved at the last minute by friends from the underground resistance movement.
However, when she was released, Sendler did not calm down: she returned to her underground activities and was forced into hiding.
Sendler and those who helped her saved a total of 2,500 Jewish children.
After the war, Sandler stayed in Warsaw. For a long time, no one knew about her exploits that she committed during the Nazi occupation.In the late 1990s, however, a history teacher from a rural area of Kansas (USA) commissioned a group of high school students to prepare an independent project about the life and heroic actions of Sendler.
The students were stunned by Sendler's exploits and that they had never heard of her before, despite the fact that she had helped thousands of children and families during the Holocaust.
Even more incredible was that when high school students tried to track down the grave of Irena Sendler, they discovered that she was still alive!
The students wrote Life in the Bank, an original play based on the story of Sendler, and flew to Poland to meet the heroine in person.
Partly thanks to the efforts of American schoolchildren, Sendler was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2007 and 2008. Finally, almost six decades after the end of the war, Irena Sendler gained recognition for saving the lives of thousands of innocent children.
Irena Sendler died in 2008 at the age of 98. Her story was the basis of the plot of the film “Braveheart of Irena Sendler”, which was released in 2009.
Corrie Ten Boom: Guardian of the Secret Place
"The measure of life, after all, is not its duration, but what you managed to do for the sake of others."
Corrie Ten Boom was the daughter of a Dutch watchmaker who, with the help of his family, saved the lives of many military refugees, mostly Jews, by hiding them in a secret room.
During the war, there was a shortage of food, and only non-Jewish citizens of the Netherlands were allowed to have food ration cards necessary to get food stamps. The Ten Boom family, however, purchased hundreds of additional ration cards and distributed them to Jews.
Dutch resistance heard about the Ten Boom family and helped them build a secret room to rescue Jews and other war refugees.
In 1944, Corrie Ten Boom and her family were betrayed by a Dutch informant and arrested. Corrie's father died shortly thereafter. However, the six refugees who were hiding in a secret room at that time managed to escape.
Corrie and her sister Betsy were sent to a concentration camp, and then to a women's labor camp in Germany, where they secretly helped prisoners study the Bible. Betsy died in Germany, and Corrie managed to be released because of a clerical error.
As soon as Coria returned home, she opened the doors of her home to mentally retarded people who were targeted by the Nazis, obsessed with eugenics.
After the war, Ten Boom created a rehabilitation center in the Netherlands for Dutch citizens who collaborated with the Germans during the occupation. In 1950, the center was open to all who needed help.
Corrie Ten Boom later traveled the world, visiting more than 60 countries. She told her story, inspiring other people with her faith and forgiveness. She also wrote a best-selling book, The Secret Place, about the life of her family during World War II, based on which the film was made in 1975.
Corrie Ten Boom died in 1983. Thirty years later, a sequel was released entitled Returning to a Secret Location. In its plot lay the story of the Dutch resistance, told by Hans Paulie, one of the first refugees who were sheltered by the Ten Boom family.
Mip Guise: Anne Frank Defender
"Even an ordinary secretary, a housewife or a teenage girl can in their own way turn on the lights in a dark room."
Almost everyone has heard of Anne Frank and her famous diary, but very few people know the story of a woman who was a girl’s protector.
Mip Gis didn’t just shelter the Frank family for two years, allowing Anna to keep her now well-known diary. She also kept a diary after the Frank family was betrayed and killed. After the war, she returned the diary to the only survivor - Anna's father, Otto Frank.
Mip Gis got to know her in Vienna, but left for the Netherlands after the First World War. Gis so fond of his foster Dutch family that she decided to stay there forever.
In 1933, Gis became the secretary of Otto Frank, who was the owner of a trading company, as well as a good friend of his family. During World War II, Mip, her husband, and several other brave souls came together to hide two Jewish families in a secret annex behind the former Frank office.
When the Frank family was betrayed, Gis attempted to bribe the officers to free their friends, but to no avail. However, she managed to save Anna's diary and hide it in the table.
In 1945, Otto Frank learned that his family died in concentration camps, and then Mip returned to him the diary of Anna, which was published later and became a world bestseller. In 1987, Mip Gis also published her own book, Memories of Anne Frank.
She died in 2010 at the age of 100.
“I do not consider myself a heroine,” Mip Gis wrote in her memoirs.
In fact, all these three incredible women did not have delusions of grandeur, bloated ego or arrogance.
They became heroines because of their dedication. Irena Sendler, Corrie Ten Boom and Mip Gis saved lives by risking their own. They survived the loss of their beloved friends and family, but continued to serve and help other people throughout their lives.
By their examples, they teach us to appreciate quiet courage, unshakable dedication to right cause and true humility. Their stories continue to touch the hearts of people around the world to this day.