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Irena Sendler vs. Al Gore and President Obama? That isn’t even the point

  The reason this post is here is because I received a chain letter story featuring Irena Sendler that seemed to be more of a way to discredit President Obama and former Vice President Al Gore than educate the world about this wonderful heroic woman.   I don’t feel that using Seldler’s truly heroic story by coupling her name to a chain letter with inaccuracies, distortions and outright falsehoods honors her memory.   In this post, I wish to clear up misconceptions about the Nobel Prize, point out incorrect statements made in the letter and essentially de-couple the memory of Irena Sendler from current political controversies she has nothing to do with.

First off, Irena Sendler is a genuine hero.   She selflessly put her own life at risk to save the lives of hundreds of children.  If you’re looking for more information about Irena Sendler herself, as opposed to the chain letter that revolves around her:  there are many sources that go into more detail about her.  Here’s one account of her life:  The Irena Sendler story.

For the last four years, a chain letter has been floating around as a “tribute” to Irena Sendler, but then drifts off into an attack on Barack Obama and Al Gore and stirs up some phony controversy over them winning the award, but not her. (Early versions of the letter only mentioned Gore, and the Obama part was added later.)

I’ll reprint the text of the letter, as taken off of a post on Facebook, below:

“Look at this lady – Let us never forget!   The world hasn’t just become wicked…it’s always been wicked.  The prize doesn’t always go to the most deserving.

Irena Sendler died 12 May 2008 (aged 98) in Warsaw, Poland.   During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a plumbing/sewer specialist.  She had an ‘ulterior motive’.

She KNEW what the Nazi’s plans were for the Jews (being German).  Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids).  She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.   The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking  covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500  kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi’s broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely.   Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept  them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.  After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. President Obama won one year before becoming President for his work as a community organizer for ACORN and Al Gore won also — for a slide show on Global Warming.

 In MEMORIAL – 63 YEARS LATER

I’m doing my small part by forwarding this message. I hope you’ll consider doing the same…

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.  This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated!  Now, more than ever, with Iran, and others, claiming the HOLOCAUST to be ‘a  myth’. It’s imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again.

This post is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide! Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world. Please send this e-mail to people you know and ask them to continue the  memorial chain. Please don’t just delete it.”

When I read the letter, it struck me that the letter not only referred to “last year” when mentioning Al Gore’s Nobel Prize (and it wasn’t just for a “slide-show”) and the fact that Obama didn’t win in the year prior to his presidency. (Nor did he win it for being a community organizer for ACORN)  It seemed out of place with the rest of the story, like it was added by someone with an agenda to push.  This made me a little suspicious,  so I started doing some research on the Internet.

For the most part, the letter has the facts correct about Sendler, although it refers to her as a German, when she was, in fact, Polish.  It also states that she posed as a plumbing/sewer specialist, when as an employee of the Social Welfare Department, she had a special permit to enter the Warsaw Ghetto and no need to pose as a plumber.  They also fail to mention she wasn’t acting alone, but was a member of a group, Zegota, an underground Polish organization dedicated to the plight of the Jewish people in occupied Poland. Again, basic story line is true, and if you check it with someplace like Snopes, they would pretty much verify it.

Although one would hope that anything claiming to be a memorial for 30 million people would be factually accurate,  ( I think the carelessness mentioned above does reflect on the actual purpose of the letter) it’s the part about the Nobel Peace Prize and Al Gore and President Obama  that I’m concerned with.

I think that there are a number of misconceptions about the Nobel Peace Prize that cause some confusion here.  First, the Peace Prize is awarded only to the living, so the year Obama won the award (2009) she wouldn’t have been eligible.  But, more importantly, the Prize is also only awarded for “significant activities during the past two years“, so Irena Sendler’s activities wouldn’t qualify her for the award some 60+  years later, noble and selfless as the were.   Unlike some of the other Nobel awards, the peace Prize is not a “lifetime achievement” award.

Finally, the qualifications for the awarding the Nobel Peace Prize were set by the will of Alfred Nobel to be given “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”  Noble as they were, Irena Sendler’s activities weren’t really of this nature.   It should also be noted that there were 181 people who had been submitted as nominees for the award.

The Nobel Committee discourages organizations that make nominations from releasing the names people they nominate, so that judges are not swayed by political pressures.  The only reason we know for certain that Irena was nominated is that the Polish Government chose to reveal that fact.   There are, in fact, no “Official Nominees” and the committee will keep the actual nominees names secret for 50 years after they are submitted.

There is no controversy here.   One could take issue with the criteria for the award, but they’ve been long established, and certainly are nothing that Obama or Gore had anything to do with.  If you think that injustice has been done, then the proper organization to contact would be the Nobel Committee.

The “outrage” of various individuals such as Glenn Beck over this means they either didn’t bother to do basic journalistic research on the Peace Prize and it’s criteria, or they did, but saw an opportunity to take a swipe at Al Gore.

Again, please do not interpret any of this as trying to diminish the amazing story of Irena Sendler.  But I do think a more fitting memorial letter would include taking the time to make sure the basic facts (like her nationality) of the story are correct.  Not mentioning Zegota, or others that were involved does both those involved and Sendler a disservice.  Sendler’s actions are heroic enough that one doesn’t have to make her into a super-hero who all by herself saved 2,500 kids.  The authors of this letter are using the sacrifice of  Sendler and others to promote their own views, views that have nothing to do with either the holocaust or Irena Sendler.

If you do wish to learn more about Irena Sendler, here are a few links to where you can learn more:

Short student produced You Tube Film

“In the Name of Their Mothers”   PBS Documentary about Irena Sendler

2009 Hallmark Movie “The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler”

Both Movies are available on Netflix.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

30 Responses to “Irena Sendler vs. Al Gore and President Obama? That isn’t even the point”

  1. Jean says:

    I have been wondering about the email for a long time. I was shocked to see the story of a true heroine being hijacked to make a political point. In all the comments I’ve seen no-one seems to have checked the Nobel citation. If they did they’d find that the prize was shared between Al Gore (for twenty years of environmental work) and the International Panel on Climate Change, for years of work collating the evidence gathered by scientists all over the world, so that nations can make informed choices on how to combat climate change.

    The latest email refers to Barack Obama being awarded the Peace Prize for work as an organiser for ACORN. I looked up the Nobel citation, and found the award has nothing to do with ACORN. Why are people telling lies?

    I wish we could see Irena Sendler’s story without all this stuff. Let’s keep it simple, and celebrate a true heroine whose story doesn’t need a lot of extras. Irena was honoued by Israel and Poland.

    • Fauxsuper says:

      Jean:

      People don’t seem to care much about “truth” these days and seem to have a “well, everybody does it” attitude. As a society, we’ve come to expect lies and dishonesty from politicians. Eventually, we’ll come to expect it from each other.

  2. howell clark says:

    thank you for enlightening the obvious attempt to politicize an agenda by mixing it in with a real hero’s story. while i’m neither an al gore or obama supporter i despise the political “cheap” shots often found in this type of internet story. one would think that since it so easy to google a name and get a quick synopsis of ones “real “facts,that these agenda driven stories on the web would dry up or at least get more sophisticated over time. one can only hope that the nobel folks do the same in the future as several of there more recent selections seem to be agenda driven. see how easy it is, especially when you overlook many of their past selections. maybe they should just stick with the science,medicine, physics type of awards

  3. Fauxsuper says:

    I think most of the confusion is due to a lack of understanding of how the award is selected, what the requirements are, etc. Since political leaders have more visibility, the opportunity to have an impact on the rest of the world is much greater. You’ll notice that many recipents of the award are heads of state. These recipients will often appear to be political to anyone who has views contrary to his or her own: it’s just the nature of the award.

    In this case, people who passed along the chain E-mail either were ignorant of the selection process, or just didn’t care because they thought it would have a negative impact on those on the left.

    This sort of thing happens on both sides of the political divide. I’m happy to see that there are people like you who are more interested in the truth than any political agenda. We can’t move forward if all we do is take potshots at those we may not see eye to eye with.

  4. Chris says:

    SIr,Ms.Selender was acting alone until 1943 when she was caught.It was then she served some time in a concentration camp and was rescued via a bribe given to an Officer who listed her as deceased.Then she joined Zegota. Please when you take on lies do make doubly sure of the veacity of your own statements.Elsewise some will point to those mistakes as ‘proof positive’ that you have an agenda. Fellow truth seeker

  5. Chris says:

    Sorry should have proof read my own comment Ms.Sendler(sic)

  6. fauxsuper says:

    I certainly don’t claim to be any sort of expert about Ms Sendler, nor do I wish for anyone to think that I was in any way trying to diminish her accomplishments. I explained that the people who’ve grabbed this story tried to embelish in ways that they did not have to do to present her as a hero, but pretty much had the story correct.

    At the end of my story, (and also at the beginning)I did mention some other sources for people who wanted to know her entire story, which I did not presume to present here in it’s total aspect. It was not my intent to present the “correct” story of Irena Sendler, but to point out that the story seemed to have picked up some needless baggage.

    My main point was that some people had been using her story to build up some controvery, where there was in fact, none.

    It seemed to me that some of the people involved with this were only casually involved with Ms. Sendler and were more concerned with using her story to further their own ends.
    It’s a story that can stand on it’s own without any embelishment, and it has nothing to do with either Al Gore or Barack Obama.

    Lastly, when reading my account, I can see that someone unfamiliar could feel I was trying to imply she never acted on her own, which wasn’t my intent. So, your point is well taken. It’s obvious that you have a passion both for the truth and the story of Irena Sendler. Thank you for your comments.

  7. fauxsuper says:

    Mr. Picard: You are correct, thanks for letting me know. I corrected it, so I had to write this, or people might wonder what you meant——-

  8. Karen T says:

    Hi

    Just received the chain letter from a family friend and went straight to wikipedia to read about Irene Sendler, then looked for the Links between her and the Nobel Peace Prize. I always check the inf in these letters. Ther was one circulating years ago about Starbucks and a marine which was also total fabrication with a political agenda.

    It is a shame te majority follow like blind sheep. This is the type of stuff that causes so much hate and unnecessary violence. It is the nature of humanity if you think about. There aren’t many who dare to stand up and challenge.

  9. she is a profound inspiration
    a name that nurtures the human heart and soul.
    “Come to the edge.”
    “We can’t. We’re afraid.”
    “Come to the edge.”
    “We can’t. We will fall!”
    “Come to the edge.”
    And they came.
    And he pushed them.
    And they flew.

    Guillaume Apollinaire, 1880-1918
    French Poet, Philosopher

    Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    American Poet
    Books Quotes

    In 1965, Sendler was recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous among the Nations. She also was awarded the Commander’s Cross by the Israeli Institute. Only in that year did thePolish communist government allow her to travel abroad, to receive the award in Israel.
    In 2003, Pope John Paul II sent Sendler a personal letter praising her wartime efforts. On 10 October 2003 she received the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest civilian decoration, and the Jan Karski Award “For Courage and Heart,” given by the American Center of Polish Culture in Washington, D.C. She was also awarded the Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta (November 7, 2001).
    On 14 March 2007, Sendler was honored by Poland’s Senate. At age 97, she was unable to leave her nursing home to receive the honor, but she sent a statement through Elżbieta Ficowska, whom Sendler had helped to save as an infant. Polish President Lech Kaczyński stated she “can justly be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.” On 11 April 2007, she received the Order of the Smile as the oldest recipient of the award.
    In May 2009, Irena Sendler was posthumously granted the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award.[16] The award, named in honor of the late actress and UNICEF ambassador, is presented to persons and organizations recognised for helping children. In its citation, the Audrey Hepburn Foundation recalled Irena Sendler’s heroic efforts that saved 2,500 Jewish children during the German occupation of Poland in World War II.
    Sendler was the last survivor of the Children’s Section of the Żegota Council to Assist Jews, which she had headed from August 1943 until the end of the war.
    Irena Sendler died in Warsaw on May 12, 2008.

    “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.

    thankyou .
    april

    • Fauxsuper says:

      Nice to know she has been recognised for who she was by the world. That last quote at the bottom of your post speaks volumes about Irena Sendler’s motivation for doing what she did. There are few true heros, but Irena Sendler is one of them.

  10. Hey. I think there’s some thing incorrect with your on page links. I hope you’ll be able to fix it!

  11. Fauxsuper says:

    Cher,

    I tried all the links in the article and found them all to still be working. Can you tell me which ones aren’t working for you?

    Thanks!!!

  12. B Schechter says:

    I would simply add the fact that Obama was never an employee of or organizer for ACORN. This is another reason he didn’t win the Nobel for being that. Just one more problem with this unnecessarily politicized problematic posting.

  13. Helen says:

    Well said. I love the way you are researched and fair. I knew nothing of this before I read the Facebook post and I am pleased I read your link as well.

  14. Hi there to every body, it’s my first pay a visit of this weblog; this weblog carries remarkable and genuinely fine material for visitors.

  15. Daniel Berek says:

    I have seen these comments in several locations, including Flickr, where I administer a group dedicated to Irena Sendler. (Of course, I did not invite that photo and comment in my group, and were it to be submitted, I would soundly reject it.)

    People have the right to their opinions on Senator Al Gore and President Obama. That’s not the point here! To drag the good person of Irena Sendler into the debate (about the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to these politicians) is immoral. I agree that Irena Sendler deserved the prize, but we she alive to witness this controversy in her name, she would have been appalled.

    Thanks to everyone who worked to clear Irena Sendler’s good name. I have read many books about Irena Sendler – she was a great lady, a wonderful person to the very end.

  16. Charles Wiener says:

    “First, the Peace Prize is awarded only to the living”
    – there is a difference between the nomination, the decision to award, and the award presentation. The Nobel Prize was in the past awarded and presented to deceased people : Erik Axel Karlfeldt, Dag Hammarskjöld, William Vickrey, Ralph M. Steinman – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_Prize#Posthumous_nominations

    “the Prize is also only awarded for “significant activities during the past two years“
    Incorrect. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2009/ states Obama got his one “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”. The nominations must be submitted by Feb.1 of year when they are awarded (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/nomination/). Which “extraordinary efforts” did Obama show between being an senator, elected in November 2008 and taking office on Jan 20,2009, TWELVE DAYS before the nomination deadline?

    “peace Prize is not a “lifetime achievement” award.”
    is in contradiction with Nobel Prize committee’s statement that “The Nobel Peace Prize 2002 was awarded to Jimmy Carter “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development”.” – see http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2002/

    If “qualifications for the awarding the Nobel Peace Prize were set by the will of Alfred Nobel to be given ”to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.””, what in Al Gore’s nomination “”for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”” fits Alfred Nobel’s qualification?

    If you are right that Irena Sendler must not be mixed into a political controversy concerning American politics, the arguments you use to explain Nobel Prize rules and defending the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for political reasons, among them to Gore and Obama, are equally incorrect and biased as those you criticize.

  17. fauxsuper says:

    Mr. Weiner:

    You are splitting hairs. Irena Sendler’s contributions, noble and heroic as they were were something that were preformed over 60 years ago, and weren’t of the nature of activities the Peace award is given for.

    The qualifications for the awarding the Nobel Peace Prize were set by the will of Alfred Nobel to be given ”to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Noble as they were, Irena Sendler’s activities weren’t really of this nature. It should also be noted that there were 181 people who had been submitted as nominees for the award.

    I still stand my criticism of people such as Glenn Beck for creating a controvery where there really was none.

    • Linee Hardy says:

      fauxsuper,I have nothing kind to say to you. I also belive that Glen Beck is a great person and he should run for president.Drop by facebook sometime,,,Id “LOVE” to tell you how I really feel on this subject.

  18. A serious problem in society is inaccurate information meant to persuade one to their thinking. I believe it is conjuring hate, possibly causing irrational actions which, of late are all too common.

    • fauxsuper says:

      People like Beck thrive on things like creating a controversy where there is none and in this case, have taken a woman who IS a hero and embroiled her name in ways I doubt she would have supported. I’m amazed that people are still reading my post. Which makes me wonder if this is still showing up as E-mails and Facebook Posts.

  19. Jerry Freese says:

    When I first read this ,it was indeed before Obama came along but you really shouldn’t try to discredit this shared post just because people sour it. However the choice for the Peace Prize WAS between Al Gore and Irena Sendler. Even Snopes.com verifies this. Al Gore took no risks and Irena Sendler risked her life over and over and was tortured. There were other Nominees for the Prize overlooked like Ghandi for one. There were others similar to that. These facts alone make the Nobel Peace Prize meaningless..

  20. fauxsuper says:

    The Snopes entry basically says: “Yes Irena Sendler is a real person.” Go back and read the Snopes entry and you’ll find they don’t say anything of the sort. They actually say that it’s is “difficult to say if anyone has been “nominated” for an award because those things have been kept secret for the last 50 years. If that’s not good enough for you, here’s the story from the Nobel site itself:

    50 Year Secrecy Rule

    “The Committee does not itself announce the names of nominees, neither to the media nor to the candidates themselves. In so far as certain names crop up in the advance speculations as to who will be awarded any given year’s Prize, this is either sheer guesswork or information put out by the person or persons behind the nomination. Information in the Nobel Committee’s nomination database is not made public until after fifty years.”

    She wasn’t suddenly “up against Al Gore” any more than she’s been up against anyone and everyone else who’s been awarded the Nobel prize since WWII or after Obama won the award. The fact that you mention Ghandi tells me you have no idea what the criteria for giving the award is or how they go about awarding it. It’s not a lifetime achievement sort of award.

    So where has Mr. Glenn Beck been for the last three years? Has he been tirelessly working to correct this oversight? Has he said anything since he show about her? Google “Glenn Beck Irena Sendler” and you’ll find nothing in the last 4 years. My point is that Beck was merely using people’s lack of understanding about the Peace Prize to slam Al Gore and Obama. Otherwise, he’d still be upset she hasn’t won in the last four years.

    if you feel strongly about it you might want to consider taking the time to contact organizations or individuals who qualify to nominate someone and urge them to nominate Ms. Sendler. Maybe send a letter to Glenn Beck and ask him to put his considerable money where his mouth is. Here’s more about the process of nomination:

    http://www.nobelprize.org/nomination/peace/

  21. Mani Menon says:

    Irene, by herself, is a humble, almost unwilling, heroine. The last thing she would have needed was to ride piggyback on Al Gore And Obama!

  22. It’s not my first time to pay a visit this web site, i am browsing this site dailly and take pleasant information from here
    all the time.

  23. Thank you for publishing information that corrects the obvious purpose of this erroneous story, solely meant to cast dispersions upon people they disagree with…namely Obama and Gore. It is so accurate to say some people could care less about truth or accuracy…just to further their own politically motivated agenda. I just must add….thank heaven for the silent majority!! P. W. In Ohio…putting the ‘swing’ in the swing state!

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