On Sunday, April 19th, CBS will be featuring "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler," docu-drama on the rescuer of 2,500 Jewish children. This female Oscar Schindler lived to be 98 years old and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Below is the press release from CBS.
The drama is based on the courageous true story of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Irena Sendler (Paquin), who is credited with saving the lives of 2,500 Jewish children during World War II. Academy Award winner and nominee Marcia Gay Harden (”Pollock,” “Mystic River”), Nathaniel Parker (”The Inspector Lynley Mysteries”) and Goran Visnjic (”ER”) also star. Harden plays Sendler’s mother, Janina, and Parker portrays Dr. Majkowski, the head of Warsaw’s Department of Health who helped Sendler obtain important resources for her mission. Visnjic plays Stefan, a former university friend of Sendler who was Jewish and with whom she fell in love when she started her clandestine work in the Warsaw ghetto.
As a Polish Catholic social worker in the early 1940s, Irena Sendler created and led a conspiracy of women who moved in and out of Warsaw’s Jewish Ghetto disguised as nurses employed by Warsaw’s Health Department. Though they worked under the guise of merely attempting to prevent and contain the spread of Typhus and Spotted Fever, Sendler and her brave cohorts emerged each time with the children of consenting Jewish parents. The children were sometimes sedated and hidden inside boxes, suitcases and coffins as a means of rescuing them from their imminent deportation to death camps. They were given new identities and placed with Polish families and in convents. Sendler kept a hidden record of their birth names and where they were placed with the hope that they would some day be reunited with their own families.
In 1943, the Nazis discovered Sendler’s daring and dangerous ruse and arrested her. She was tortured by Gestapo agents and suffered broken feet. On the day of her scheduled execution she was rescued by “Zegota,” the underground network with which she worked to save the Jewish children.
As a result of Sendler’s efforts, approximately 2,500 children were smuggled to safety. Not a single child she rescued was ever betrayed or discovered by the Nazis.
The movie is based on the authorized biography of the heroine, Mother of the Children of the Holocaust: The Irena Sendler Story, by Anna Mieszkowska, published in 2005.
In 2007 Sendler was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. That same year, Hallmark Hall of Fame acquired exclusive movie rights to the book and negotiated life-rights with Sendler and her family members. Sendler died on May 12, 2008 at the age of 98.