One of the children she saved later recounted the daring escape and the precision timing of their group: at one moment he had to wait for a Nazi soldier to pass, count to thirty in his head, then make a mad dash for the middle of the road. That’s when a manhole cover rose and another member of the resistance led him underround to safety. He survived, along with many others Sendler helped.
The majority of Jewish children saved by Zegota were placed in Catholic orphanages and convents, with new Gentile names and paperwork to go with them. Some were adopted out. Irena Sendler hoped that one day the Nazis would be defeated and she could reunite these children with their families. She wrote their original and new names on scraps of paper and buried them in jars in a friend’s garden.
In 1943 Irena Sendler was captured by Nazi soldiers. She refused to name her conspirators or give up the Jews she had rescued, by that time an estimated 3,000 in all. She was imprisoned at Pawiak Prison, built in the early 1800s in response to the Polish Uprising, it was under Nazi control during the occupation (and destroyed by Nazi bombers after the final series of mass executions in 1944.)
On one occassion, the Nazi guards lined up women prisoners and shot to death every other one of them. Irna herself was sentenced to be executed on the basis of her heroics. Sendler could have easily died there, but her fellow members of Zegota bribed a Nazi prison doctor to fake death papers. With broken legs and feet from a recent torture session, Irena was declared deceased and smuggled to safety.
After her escape and recovery, Irena Sender returned to Warsaw under a false name to continue her work. She worked as a nurse in a upublic hospital and during the Warsaw Uprising she hid more Jews. She did this until the war was over, at which point she dug up the Jewish names she’d hidden in glass jars and gave the information to a Jewish advocacy group. Tragically, nearly every parent of the children she’d saved had been killed by the Nazis.