SAN FRANCISCO, April 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Between 1939 and 1945, Irena Sendler, a young Polish Catholic social worker, led a daring conspiracy of young women who saved thousands of Jewish children from certain death. Yet little was known about them until recently. Participants in the Polish Resistance, they were viewed as a threat to the Communists who took over Poland in 1945 and their stories were suppressed for decades.
Now American filmmaker Mary Skinner, the daughter of a Warsaw war orphan, brings their remarkable saga to life in Irena Sendler In the Name of Their Mothers. Premiering on PBS this Sunday, May 1 at 10 pm, the extraordinary film features 95-year-old Irena Sendler in the last interviews she gave before she died in 1998, together with her co-workers and the Jewish children they saved.
From a medical home in Warsaw, the petite Polish grandmother reveals for the first time how the young social workers and teenagers outwitted the Nazis, smuggled children through sewers and secret passageways, and cared for them in safe homes and convents throughout Poland. By 1943 Sendler had become head of the children's division of Zegota -- a secret unit of the Polish Resistance created to protect Jews. Responsible for distributing aid from the Polish government-in-exile to foster caretakers of Jewish children, she was captured by the Gestapo, tortured and barely escaped execution. Sendler refused to divulge anything and the Nazis never succeeded in abolishing their organization. At least 2,500 Jewish children survived the war thanks to the group, and many were later re-united with their Jewish families.
"I knew how terrifying the German Occupation in Warsaw was," said Skinner, whose Polish Catholic mother was rounded up as a teenager and sent to a concentration camp for smuggling food after losing her entire family. "Just imagine, trying to survive in a bombed city the size of Philadelphia, where street roundups and executions occur daily, where a third of the population perishes in a few years from hunger and disease and another third is simply murdered…and yet these women risk everything to care for Jewish children. I wanted to show both why and how they managed to be effective. When times are tough, we need these stories to remind us that people like Irena Sendler and her co-workers chose to protect and care for those who were persecuted despite overwhelming hardship. It's always possible, and it always matters."
Irena Sendler In the Name of Their Mothers airs nationally on PBS on Sunday May 1, 2011 at 10 pm (check local listings). Produced and Directed by Mary Skinner, 2B Productions and Slawomir Grunberg, MultiColor Film Agency, Poland; presented by San Francisco PBS Affiliate KQED. Visit PBS.org for local listings and Shop PBS to purchase the DVD.
Contact: Diana Kimbrell
SOURCE 2B Productions