Irena Sendler was a Polish nurse and social worker who defied the Nazis and is responsible for smuggling 2,500 Jewish infants and children out of Nazi ghettos in Poland.
American historian Deborah Dwork described Sendler as "the inspiration and the prime mover for the whole network," noting that about 400 of the children were directly smuggled out by Sendler herself.
When Sendler was caught by the Germans in 1943, she was tortured, brutally beaten, and had her feet and legs broken.
Her spirit remained unbroken though, and right before her scheduled execution by the Nazis, her death was prevented by a member of Zegota (code-name for the Polish Council to Aid Jews) who bribed a Gestapo guard.
Upon receiving the Jan Karski Award in 2003, Irena Sendler said, "I wish that the memory of many noble people who risked their lives and saved Jewish brothers, but whose names nobody remembers, would live on. But the cruelty and hatred that drove people to denounce their neighbors and murder one another must be kept in our memory and in the memory of future generations.
We witnessed indifference to the tragedy of those who perished. I do hope that this memory serves as a warning to the world. Let us hope that a similar tragedy will never happen again."