In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke
Polish-Catholic Irene Gut is 17 years old in 1939 when the German Panzers roll into Poland crushing everything in their path. A nursing student, unaware of the fate of her mother, father and 5 sisters, Irene flees west towards Russia with other nurses, doctors and wounded Polish soldiers. Captured by Russian soldiers she is beaten, raped and left for dead. Rescued by Polish resistance fighters she is again captured by the Russians and forced to work at a Russian hospital.
Throughout WWII Irene is a prisoner of both the Russians and the Germans. Because she is tall and blond the Germans allow her to work as the housekeeper of a German Colonel and in this capacity she begins to secretly help Polish Jews marked for death by the Nazis. Beginning with hiding boxes of food for Radom Ghetto prisoners she expands her rescue efforts to hiding 12 Jews in the basement of the German Colonel’s villa; eventually helping them escape to freedom. Irene ends the war as a full-fledged Polish resistance fighter.
Irene Gut was 17 when WW II began and 23 when it ended. In that time she rescued countless Jews from the Nazis. After the war she immigrated to the United States to escape the Russians who wanted to execute her as a spy. She was silent for many years concerning her heroism but agreed to speak about her experiences after hearing neo-Nazi claims that the Holocaust was a hoax. She was honored with a papal blessing from Pope John Paul II and recognized and honored by Yad Vashem as one of the Polish Righteous Among the Nations. A tree was planted in Israel in her honor.
Reviewed by Debbie Nowling