Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Monday, 12 May 2008 12:38 UK

Pole who saved ghetto Jews dies

Irena Sendler
The Polish parliament honoured Irena Sendlerowa last year for her heroism

The death of a Polish woman who almost certainly saved the lives of 2,500 Jewish children during World War II has been announced.

Irena Sendlerowa organised the rescue of the children from the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation.

She died in a Warsaw hospital at the age of 98, her daughter said.

After Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939, she took great risks to help Polish Jews held by the Nazis - an act that was punishable by death.

In 1942 Irena Sendlerowa joined the Zegota resistance movement.

With the rest of her team of 20, she rescued the children between 1940 and 1943, when the Nazis burned the ghetto, condemning its residents to death.

Saved from execution

In October 1943 she was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo, but refused to give up the names of the children.

She was saved on the day of her scheduled execution after the Polish underground bribed her SS guards.

She said persuading parents to part with their loved ones was particularly traumatic.

The children were smuggled out in different ways - in ambulances, through the sewers, and once under her skirt.

The BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw says Irena Sendlerowa hated the term "hero", and said her conscience was troubled because she had done so little.

Last year the Polish parliament unanimously passed a resolution honouring her for organising the "rescue of the most defenceless victims of the Nazi ideology: the Jewish children".

In recognition of her efforts she has also been awarded the title Righteous Among the Nations, by Israel.

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