Review: Irena's Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo
Amanda Carlin - Narrator
Audiobook: Duration: 10:31:36
Published September 27th, 2016 by Simon Schuster Audio
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Widow Clicquot comes an extraordinary and gripping account of Irena Sendler—the “female Oskar Schindler”—who took staggering risks to save 2,500 children from death and deportation in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. 

In 1942, one young social worker, Irena Sendler, was granted access to the Warsaw ghetto as a public health specialist. While there, she reached out to the trapped Jewish families, going from door to door and asking the parents to trust her with their young children. She started smuggling them out of the walled district, convincing her friends and neighbors to hide them. Driven to extreme measures and with the help of a network of local tradesmen, ghetto residents, and her star-crossed lover in the Jewish resistance, Irena ultimately smuggled thousands of children past the Nazis. She made dangerous trips through the city’s sewers, hid children in coffins, snuck them under overcoats at checkpoints, and slipped them through secret passages in abandoned buildings.

 But Irena did something even more astonishing at immense personal risk: she kept secret lists buried in bottles under an old apple tree in a friend’s back garden. On them were the names and true identities of those Jewish children, recorded with the hope that their relatives could find them after the war. She could not have known that more than ninety percent of their families would perish. 

In Irena’s Children, Tilar Mazzeo tells the incredible story of this courageous and brave woman who risked her life to save innocent children from the Holocaust—a truly heroic tale of survival, resilience, and redemption.

My thoughts…

I’m sure that there are a lot of people like myself who did not know of Irena Sendler before reading this book. Irena has often been referred to as “the female Oskar Schindler” in her native Poland for repeatedly risking her life saving thousands of Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto in German-occupied Poland during World War II. With the help of her trusted network of helpers she was able to falsify documents and place the children into Roman Catholic convents, orphanages and given to non-Jewish allies. Irena recorded their names on thin rolls of tissue paper in the hope that she could reunite the children with their families later. She saved the valuable scraps of papers in jars and buried them in a friend’s garden. The heartbreaking truth was that most of the children’s’ families did not survive.

If you happen to pick this book up, do not get discouraged with the many names mentioned throughout it, it may be a bit much but they all do play an essential part in helping to save the children. Thought-out the book, Irena’s Jewish lover Adam played a large part with helping Irena keep track of records. After the war they were married and had children and not much later divorced. I would have liked to have known more about their relationship afterwards instead just a short sentence that the author provided.

Irena’s Children is a deeply moving and harrowing story. It is a reminder of how people can stand together and make a difference to save lives.  -J


  1. This sounds like a great book. These kinds of books really do bring more a perspective in that time in human history.

    1. Yes, I agree with you, these kind of books are more personalized and give you a more enlightened account of what happened during that time period.

  2. Wow. I had not heard of her before. Which is a bit surprising given her role in history. Sounds like a very emotional story. Thank you for sharing your review.