Mazzeo (The Hotel on Place Vendome), associate professor of English at Colby College, profiles the little-known Irena Sendler, a young Polish social worker dubbed “the female [Oskar] Schindler” for her work smuggling Jewish children out of Warsaw during WWII. Sendler headed a network, and later an organization (Z˙egota), that found more than 2,000 children places of refuge among families and in convents, saving them from deportation and death. Mazzeo shows the variety of strategies and ruses Sendler and her allies used to snatch Jewish children to safety, including setting up a medical station at the collection center for deportation; the intense debates over whether convents sheltering Jewish children had the right to baptize them; and how Sendler survived arrest, torture, and near execution. Sendler’s personal life also receives attention, including her affair with Adam Cenikier, a Jewish social revolutionary and fellow resistance fighter. Mazzeo’s writing is largely clear, though she is occasionally sketchy with details, as when noting without elaborating that American Jews helped fund Z˙egota. While this is not the first biography of Sendler, its succinctness and overall readability will introduce many readers to a truly brave and otherwise remarkable woman who initiated and spearheaded “a vast collective effort of decency.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/15/2016 Release date: 09/27/2016 Genre: Nonfiction
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