This is the story of an unassuming woman who smuggled hundreds of Jewish children to safety right under the Nazi army's nose. Irena didn't have much reason to fear when the Nazi army invaded Poland. She wasn't Jewish and her job as a social worker was a relatively safe occupation. But as she watched her Jewish friends forced into the Warsaw ghetto, Irena knew that the very things that made her safe, also gave her great power to save others.
Using her Polish identity and position as a social worker, Irena saved hundreds of Jewish children through her extensive resistance networks and clever ruses. She never once said that she did it alone, but relied on the aid of various other heroes in the form of old college friends and professors. Knowing it would mean death if caught, Irena and her friends smuggled the children out through sewers, in toolboxes, and in other ingenious ways from the death that awaited them.
The rescued children were given new homes, new names, and a new religion. All in attempts to erase any suspicion of being a Jew. Yet, Irena carefully recorded each child's name and Jewish identity, in the hopes that after the war they could be returned to their parents and retain their heritage. Little did she know that many of the children she saved would come out of the war orphans.
The small Polish woman would soon become a cunning thorn in the Nazis' side. And though she wasn't one to turn heads, soon all the Nazi occupiers would be hunting for her. She was a skilled obtainer of false papers, a major player in the increasingly organized resistance, and a person whose identity was still frustratingly unknown to them.
Mazzeo brings to life a historical hero who refused to stand by and do nothing when injustice and terror reigned. The book is written using factual accounts and gives due recognition to the other unsung heroes who assisted Irena in her efforts. On writing Irena's story, Mazzeo refuses to shrink away from the brutality the Warsaw Jews experienced at the hands of the Nazis. Instead she tells history like it happened so that we may never forget. Like her subject, Mazzeo challenges us to examine ourselves and ask, "What would I do"? This is a book that will place you right in the center of German occupied Poland. Though there are a lot of different characters to follow at the start, it doesn't take long to get the idea of who's who. It is an engaging read and great for those who are interested in unknown WWII heroes.