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The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler

4.7 out of 5 stars 204 customer reviews

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Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Anna Paquin, Goran Visnjic, Marcia Gay Harden
  • Directors: John Kent Harrison
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Import, NTSC
  • Language: English, French
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Ais
  • DVD Release Date: October 5, 2010
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003YKYX7Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,832 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This film tells the compelling story of Polish Catholic social worker, Irena Sendler, in the early 1940s. She engineered and operated a group of compatriots who moved in and out of Warsaw's Jewish Ghetto dressed as nurses employed by Warsaw's Health Department. Even as they worked under the ruse of attempting to prevent and contain the spread of Typhus and Spotted Fever, Sendler and her brave friends emerged each time with the children of consenting Jewish parents. The children were sometimes medicated and concealed in boxes, suitcases and coffins as a means of rescuing them from their imminent deportation to death camps. They were given new identities and placed with Polish families, ophanages, schools, and convents to protect their safety. Sendler kept a hidden record of their birth names and where they were placed with the hope that they would some day be reunited with their own families.

Hallmark continues to be a wonderful source of inspiration and tells of the stories of heartfelt, caring individuals that risked their lives to succeed in what they beleived was right to save the most innocent of souls.
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This is a touching and wonderful true story. The first time I saw it on TV I had to have the DVD. It is amazing what Sendler did to save so many children during WWII, yet few have heard this story. Sendler touched so many lives. She died only a couple of years ago at the age of 98. The story of what she did was only discovered a few years before she died by some students in a Kansas school. Everything about Sendler's life is absolutely amazing.
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Based on my long-term studies of the Holocaust, I conclude that this movie depiction of Irena Sendler is close to the actual historical events. WARNING: Some of the scenes in the movie are emotionally intense, and may be upsetting to sensitive viewers.

German propaganda had attempted to convince the Poles that the Jews were being locked up in ghettos in order to protect the Polish population from the typhus borne by Jews. For a long time, Jews had thought of the Germans as a very civilized people, for whom mass extermination of peoples would have been unthinkable. Warsaw's Jews deluded themselves into thinking that Warsaw's nearly 500,000-strong Jewish community was too large to be harmed by the Nazis. Then, for a long time, too many Jews had accepted the Germans' "resettlement" claims at face value.

Irena's Sendler's offer of help was not all that well received. Many Jewish leaders thought that, since Jews had survived persecutions before, they could do so again, and do it without aid from the Poles. Furthermore, many Jewish parents did not want their children raised by Poles, if only out of the fear that they would, through deliberate acts or passive influences, convert to Christianity. Some Jews thought that the risk of their children converting to Christianity was equivalent in outcome to the risk of dying, while other Jews disagreed with this notion. Then of course it was difficult for parents to voluntarily part with children in the hope that they would survive the war.

Successfully placing Jewish children in Polish homes was very difficult because the Jewish children had to be smuggled out of the ghetto. In addition, Jews did not fit into Polish society. Poland's Jews mostly spoke Yiddish and had a weak understanding of Polish, if that.
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Hallmark's "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler," which first aired on CBS on April 19, 2009, does a good job presenting the story of Irena Sendler and Zegota. Very few people are aware of the Council to Aid Jews (code name: Zegota), the Polish underground organization which assisted Jews during the Nazi occupation. It's estimated Zegota saved 4,000 Jews, mainly in the Warsaw area. Irena Sendler (Sendlerowa), the focus of this film, headed the organization's children's section and was responsible for saving the lives of 2,500 Jewish children.

Not all Polish Catholics were interested in assisting Jews. Anti-Semitism was pervasive in Poland prior to the war and continued into the occupation. One of the four political parties which comprised the Polish underground Delegatura, the National Party representing conservative Catholics, refused to support Zegota in any way. It was only until the spring of 1944, when it was already too late, that the Polish Government-in-exile began supporting Zegota with any seriousness. Despite lack of funding and support, the brave and selfless individuals who comprised Zegota carried on with their mission in the face of tremendous danger to their own personal safety.

Anna Pacquin gives a gritty performance as the determined Sendler, although she does seem to play only one note throughout. While this movie was shot in Latvia, Polish film buffs will recognize a number of Polish actors in the cast including the incomparable Danuta Stenka. To its credit, the film does touch upon the anti-Semitic attitudes of some Poles. This is a Hallmark, made-for-television movie so don't expect the large budget accouterments of a theatrical release. That being said, "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler" is both entertaining and informative. A five-star-film? No. But a worthwhile effort. Kudos to Hallmark for bringing the heroic story of Sendler and Zegota to the American general public.
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