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An utterly amazing, true, first-person account of one girlÂ's experience in wartime. Irene Gut Opdyke was a Catholic Polish nursing student when WWII broke out. She soon became mired in the horrors of central Europe as, at various times, a partisan, a refugee, a housekeeper to the Nazis and, over all, as a heroine. She singlehandedly saved the lives of at least 16 Jewish people from the Holocaust. Now living in America and aged 77, Irene, with the help of a respected historical novelist, has told her story with all the power and passion that such a remarkable history can inspire.
Irene Gut was just seventeen in 1939, when the Germans and the Russians divided and devoured her native Poland. In an instant her life would be transformed--distilled to flight, capture, escape, and hiding. After being rounded up outside of church one Sunday, Irene was put to work for the German Army. Her blond hair, her blue eyes, her youth--these bought her the relatively safe job of kitchen helper and waitress in an officer's dining room. But behind this Aryan mask, Irene began to wage her own war. She picked up snatches of conversation along with the Nazi's dirty dishes and passed the information to Jews in the ghetto. She raided the German Warenhaus for food and blankets. She smuggled Jews from the work camp into the forest. And , when she was made the housekeeper for a Nazi Major, she managed to hide twelve people in the basement of his home and to keep them safe there until the Germans' defeat. Irene Gut Opdyke has received many honors for her actions: Israel's Medal of Honor, recognition from the Vatican, a permanent place in the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. But this memoir, masterfully written by Jennifer Armstrong, strips away the laudatory titles--Holocaust Rescuer, Righteous Gentile--and reveals the woman herself. Just a girl, really. A girl who saw evil around her and chose to defy it. A girl who proves that the actions of one good person can make a difference; that the will to protect is every bit as powerful as the will to destroy. Ms. Opdyke began to share her story only recently--after hearing the holocaust denounced as a hoax, or propaganda. She now travels the country, speaking about her experiences. Her favorite audience is young people--people who are now the same age she was when the war began. These are the people who are now the same age she was when the war began. These are the people Irene most hopes to empower with the message that each of us can, and must, decide for ourselves what is good and what is evil, and behave accordingly.
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