The exhibit honors historical figures Irena Sendler and Janusz Korczak for looking after children in the Warsaw Ghetto.
A poignant blend of art and history has arrived at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida.
The museum is hosting a temporary exhibit titled, “Heroes of Warsaw.” It’s a collection of illustrations depicting the courage and bravery of Irena Sendler and Janusz Korczak in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.
The center hopes to share the true stories of Sendler and Korczak, who both put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of children during the Holocaust.
The exhibit’s opening comes just a few months after the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
“Our center was founded with the mission of using the history and lessons of the Holocaust to create a world where everyone feels safe, respected and included,” Executive Director Pam Kancher said. “That cannot be achieved without the courage and bravery of people like Irena Sendler and Janusz Korczak, who are highlighted in the ‘Heroes of Warsaw’ exhibit. These stories remind us of our responsibility to stand up and speak out against injustices whenever and wherever we see it.”
A Polish catholic social worker, Sendler worked to rescue 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto, smuggling them out in various ways and even reuniting many of them with their families after World War II.
Korczak, a jewish physician who ran an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto, made the ultimate sacrifice when he chose to stand by his children at the orphanage when they were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp. Even when Korczak was given the chance to walk away, he chose to stay with the children in Treblinka, where he ultimately lost his life.
“I just want to highlight the diversity of heroes, both then and now, through the lens of people like Irena Sendler and Janusz Korczak,” Program Manager Terrance Hunter said.
The illustrations in the exhibit were created by artist Bill Farnsworth and featured in the children’s books, “A Hero and the Holocaust: The Story of Janusz Korczak and His Children” and “Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto.”
This is the first time that these illustrations will be presented simultaneously — only half of this collection has been on display before.
“My approach was to be brutally honest — yet with a window of hope,” Farnsworth said about the artwork. “The heroes like Korczak and Sendler showed the world that during tragic times a few had the courage to rise above and do what’s right.”
The mission behind displaying the illustrations is simple: helping visitors understand what it means to be a true hero.
“In the exhibit you look at two individuals who were heroes in different ways,” Hunter said.
“Heroism isn’t always recognized immediately, if ever. There’s something to be said about doing the right thing even when no one’s looking. Sometimes, being a hero means making a sacrifice.”