Warsaw, 30 June 2005

Irena Sendler
Sapieżyńska Street 3
00-215 Warsaw
(Home of the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God)

With great satisfaction I would like to describe how significant was the role played by the director of the Boduen [Baudouin] Orphanage – Maria Wierzbowska, and with the entire staff of this institution, in rescuing Jewish children during the Hitlerite occupation.

I started working at the Welfare Department of the Warsaw City Council before the outbreak of the war. We aided the poorest residents, those who needed help the most.

One of the first decrees issued by the occupier (as early as in September 1939) prohibited aiding Jews. We spontaneously decided to fabricate documents and falsify signatures, because the lists of people whom we aided could not include Jewish names.

From the end of 1940, we had to enter the ghetto in order to help Jews. I secured identification cards of a sanitary-epidemiological center for my closest associate Irena Schulz and myself, and later also for my ten messengers. This allowed us to move around the ghetto without hindrance. We illegally brought in food, money and false documents, and smuggled children out of the ghetto – at first those found in the streets, alone, without a guardian, and from 1942 also those who had parents. They were all earmarked for extermination.

While our resources – especially our financial capacity – were decreasing, the scale of our activities was growing. We had to devise some organizational rules. Fortunately, the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews was established at that time, and I was appointed the head of the children’s section.

Within the territory of Warsaw and its environs we had several flats where our trusted associates were taking care of the children who had been smuggled out of the ghetto. We called such places the welfare service. The children stayed there until the next “legalizing” actions were completed – their “Aryan” documents were acquired and then the children were handed over to Polish families, convents or orphanages. Most of the children in Warsaw were sent to the Father Baudouin Orphanage at Nowogrodzka Street.

During the occupation, this institution performed two functions as the welfare service and an orphanage. The staff of the orphanage was in contact with a number of convents, among others the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Turkowice near Lublin. Having been notified in a prearranged manner, the nuns came for the children who remained there for several days or even weeks. I myself placed more than 30 children in Turkowice.

The staff of the Father Baudouin Orphanage headed by director Maria Wierzbowska helped us find Polish parents and fabricate Aryan documents. They also provided false alibi for the children from the ghetto by claiming that they were orphans from this institution. This obviously meant fabricating the necessary documents.

It must be emphasized that the children taken into the Father Baudouin Orphanage were often ill, emaciated and frightened, having experienced horrific things. They received support, comprehensive medical assistance, as well as material and parental care from the staff. For some of them, the Orphanage was a place where they stayed very briefly, but safely. For other war orphans, it became a family home. For all of them – it was the place which saved them from death at the hands of the occupier.

Every person who worked in the Father Baudouin Orphanage during the Hitlerite occupation deserves the highest recognition. They proved themselves as brave, trustworthy and selfless people, and their role in rescuing Jewish children was invaluable.

Irena Sendler