You must understand that I did not become a resistance fighter, a smuggler of Jews, a defier of the SS and the Nazis, all at once.
When the war began, Irene Gut was just seventeen: a student nurse, a Polish patriot, a good Catholic girl. Forced to work in a German officiers' dining hall, she learns how to fight back.
One's first steps are always small: I had begun by hiding food under a fence.
Irene eavesdropped on the German's plans. She smuggled people out of the work camp. And she hid twelve Jews in the basement of a Nazi major's home. To deliver her friends from evil, this young woman did whatever it took--even the impossible.
PERSONAL NOTE: I recently saw the play, "Irena's Vow", which is based on this true story. I thought it was such a compelling story that I knew I wanted to read the book. Highly recommended. - Bob
IRENE GUT OPDYKE (1922-2003) was named by the Israeli Holocaust Commission one of the Righteous Among the Nations, a title given to those who risked their lives by aiding and saving Jews during the Holocaust. She was granted the Israel Medal of Honor, Israel's highest tribute, in a ceremony at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. The Vatican honored her with a special commendation. And her story is a permanent exhibit at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Mrs. Opdyke began speaking about her involvement in the war after she heard neo-Nazi groups call the Holocaust a hoax. She spent the last fifteen years of her live traveling extensively and speaking to groups large and small about her experiences. Her favorite audience by far was children. "I tell them, 'You can do what I did! Right now! You are the future of the nation.' I don't tell them what to do; I tell them I believe in them, that they can do it. They're the last generation that will hear firsthand accounts of the Holocaust. They are the ." Irene Gut Opdyke struggled with many ailments toward the end of her life, but she maintained a busy speaking schedule because, as she said, connecting with people made her feel well. "We all have to reach out to know we're not alone in the world. You have to give, not just money, you must give yourself."
JENNIFER ARMSTRONG is an award-winning author, perhaps best known for her books of historical fiction. Those books include The American Story: 100 True Tales from American,History, Shattered, and Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World.
Katy Carr's song about Irena
Prime Time Live Report
KATY CARR is a British singer-songwriter and musician known for her songs about Polish history. A fan of the 1930s and 1940s, she plays vintage instruments and wears clothing and hairstyles from the period. Although she was born in England, she lived in Poland for the first five years of her life. Her album Paszport, a tribute to those who fought in World War II, won Best Concept Album from the Independent Music Awards in 2014. In 2016 she was given Poland's Pro Patria Medal.
Into the Flames: The Life Story of a Righteous Gentile