Irene Sendler (1910-2008) was a Polish social worker and rescuer who was responsible for saving the lives of more than 3,000 Jews (mostly children) while working with the Polish underground Zegota resistance. 

Born to a Catholic family just outside Warsaw, Sendler was greatly influenced by her father, a physician who died of typhus while treating indigent Jewish patients. By the time she was older, Sendler had internalized the same ethic of service and accepted a position in the Warsaw Social Welfare department. Through this affiliation she began forging documents and papers for nearly 3,000 Jews who escaped before execution.

But as the Nazis invaded Poland, Sendler's duties became increasingly focused on the plight of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Thanks in part to the Nazi concern over the spread of typhus, Sendler was able to secure a post in the city's Epidemic Control Department, thereby allowing her to enter the ghetto legally.

While there, she not only offered medical care, but also smuggled food and clothing. A young mother herself, she soon began smuggling children out of the ghetto. And though the task of convincing parents to relinquish their children to her was not an easy one, her success in finding shelter for the children was compelling in an environment where thousands died each month. 

For a time Sendler's efforts went unnoticed. She found homes for nearly 2,500 children in churches, convents and willing families, keeping records of each child in a small jar which she buried under a neighbor's apple tree. Eventually, however, the Gestapo learned of her activities and arrested her in 1943. And though she was tortured repeatedly, she refused to reveal the names of her refugees. Luckily, Zegota was able to secure her release by bribing German guards, but not before Sendler sustained injuries that would trouble her for the rest of her life.

After the war, Sendler returned to a quiet middle class life, but was later recognized for her efforts by Yad Vashem when she was named "Righteous Among the Nations" in 1983. She was also the recipient of various other honorable service awards before her death in 2008.