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US teacher wins award for aiding Polish-Jewish ties

PR dla Zagranicy
Grzegorz Siwicki 12.06.2018 15:32
Norman Conard, a teacher from Uniontown in the US state of Kansas, has received the Irena Sendler Memorial Award for helping strengthen Polish-Jewish relations.
Irena Sendler, pictured in 2005. Photo: Mariusz Kubik/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)Irena Sendler, pictured in 2005. Photo: Mariusz Kubik/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

The award was established in 2008 by Taube Philanthropies in memory of Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who saved several hundred Jewish children from the Holocaust in German Nazi-occupied Warsaw during World War II.

Conard in 1999 came up with the idea of producing a documentary play about Sendler. Written and performed by a group of his teenage students, the play attracted a huge audience in the United States and Canada. It was also produced in Poland.

The play is entitled Life in a Jar because Sendler kept the only record of the identities of the Jewish children saved from the ghetto in jars buried beneath a tree. She hoped that she would be able to recover her notes after the end of the war.

And that’s exactly what she did once Nazi Germany was defeated: She dug up the jars and tracked down the children she had placed with adoptive families in order to reunite them with their Jewish relatives.

During the award presentation ceremony in Warsaw on Monday, Conard, who is the first American to receive the Sendler Award, quoted from the play: “There is a line in Life in a Jar that says ‘Irena Sendler was a light, a spiritual light in the darkness. She repaired the world. One child at a time, and made a difference.’”

Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński, in his remarks during the ceremony, described Sendler as a symbolic figure for Poles who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust.

Poland's parliament has declared 2018 the Year of Irena Sendler.

Sendler died in 2008. In 2003, she received the Order of the White Eagle, the highest Polish state decoration.

Her honours also included the Righteous Among the Nations award from the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem.


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