Temple Israel/JCC Book Group Study
Open to the Community
We will be discussing “In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer” by Irene Opdyke in preparation for Yom HaShoah on May 1st, sponsored by the Columbus Board of Rabbis, at which time Jeannie Smith, Opdyke’s daughter, will be the featured speaker.
Kosher Lunch, optional, by reservation for $10.
See below for short review of this interesting memoir.
Irena Gut was born into a Catholic family with five daughters in Kozienice, Poland in 1922. The family moved to Radom where she enrolled at the nursing school before the Nazi-Soviet invasion of 1939. At the age of 20, Irena witnessed a German soldier kill an infant in 1942 – this event transformed her life. During the German occupation, she was hired to work in a hotel kitchen which often served Nazi officials. Inspired by her religious faith, Gut would secretly take food from the hotel and deliver it to the Tarnopol Ghetto.
She also smuggled Jews out of the ghetto into the surrounding forest and delivered food to them there as well. When she was asked to work as a housekeeper in a German major’s villa, she hid 12 Jews in his cellar – they would come out to clean the villa when the major was not around. This was all at great personal risk to herself.
She was strong yet vulnerable. Even among World War II memoirs with extraordinary stories, Opdyke’s memoir looks large as a work of exceptional substance and style. She becomes one of the Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem and is recognized by Pope John II for her valor.