Irene Gut Opdyke

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Irene Gut Opdyke
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Front cover of In My Hands. Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke,
ISBN 0385720327
BornIrena Gut
5 May 1922
Kozienice, Poland
Died (aged 81)
OccupationWriter
NationalityPolish American
GenreWorld War II history
SpouseWilliam Opdyke

Irene Gut Opdyke born Irena Gut (5 May 1922 – 17 May 2003) was a Polish nurse who gained international recognition for aiding Polish Jews persecuted by Nazi Germany during World War II. She was honored as the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for risking her own life to save twelve Jews from certain death.

Life[edit]

Irena Gut was born into a Catholic family with five daughters in Kozienice, Poland, during the interwar period. 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.[1] This event transformed her life. During the German occupation, Gut was hired by Wehrmacht Major Eduard Rügemer to work in a kitchen of a hotel which frequently served Nazi officials. [2] Inspired by her religious faith, Gut would secretly take food from the hotel and deliver it to the Radom Ghetto.[3]

Gut smuggled Jews out of the ghetto into the surrounding forest and delivered food for them there as well. Meanwhile, Rügemer asked Gut to work as a housekeeper in his requisitioned villa. She hid 12 Jews in the cellar.[4] They would come out and help her clean the house when he was not around. One day Rügemer found out about the Jews she was hiding. At personal risk to all their lives, Rügemer kept Gut's secret and she became his mistress.[5] Rügemer fled with the Germans in 1944 ahead of the Russian advance. She and several Jews also fled west from Soviet occupied Poland to the Allied-occupied Germany. She was put in a Displaced Persons camp, where she met William Opdyke, a United Nations worker from New York City. She immigrated to the United States and married William Opdyke shortly thereafter. They raised a family together.[3]

Legacy[edit]

After years of silence regarding her wartime experience, in 1975 Opdyke was convinced to speak after hearing a neo-Nazi claim that the Holocaust never occurred.[6] Feeling compelled now to share her story, Opdyke began a public speaking career which culminated in her memoir: In My Hands: Memoirs of a Holocaust Rescuer.[7] In 1982, Irena Opdyke née Gut was recognized and honored by Yad Vashem as one of the Polish Righteous Among the Nations.[citation needed]

Papal Blessing[edit]

On June 9, 1995, Irene Gut Opdyke was honored with a papal blessing from Pope John Paul II at a joint service of Jews and Catholics held at Shir Ha-Ma'alot synagogue in Irvine, California, along with an invitation from Pope John Paul II for her to have an audience with him. The papal blessing and audience with the Pope had been obtained for her by congregant, Alan Boinus with the help of Monsignor Joseph Karp of the Polish Catholic Church in Yorba Linda, California. The papal blessing was the first recognition by the Roman Catholic Church of her heroic efforts during the Holocaust. Irene Gut Opdyke said of the honor, "This is the greatest gift I can receive for whatever I did in my life."[8] There are no records to indicate whether Opdyke ever had the planned audience with the Pope.

ABC Primetime Live News Trip to Israel[edit]

In July 1997, Irene Opdyke traveled to Israel with her manager, Alan Boinus and his wife, publicist, Rosalie Boinus on a television story arranged by Alan Boinus and Rosalie Boinus for ABC Primetime Live, which aired on June 10, 1998 re-uniting Opdyke with Hermann Morks, one of the twelves Jews whose lives she saved.[9][10]

On the trip, Alan Boinus arranged for private meetings with Opdyke at the Knesset with former President and Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres and Speaker of the Knesset, Dan Tichon. Boinus also arranged for other meetings in Israel for Opdyke with Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, Director of the Department of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem and with Holocaust survivor, Roman Haller, the baby Opdyke saved during the War by convincing his parents, Ida and Lazar Haller (two of the twelves Jews Opdyke was hiding in Rügemer's cellar) that Ida should carry the child to term after she became pregnant while hiding in the cellar. After the War, the Hallers took in Rügemer as their house guest for saving their lives. Rügemer became "Zeide" (grandfather) to Roman Haller. Roman Haller has served as director of the German office of the Claims Conference, which represents world Jewry in negotiating restitution for the victims of Nazi persecution.[11]

Memoir[edit]

Opdyke's memoir, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer (Alfred A. Knopf; later ISBN 0385720327), was arranged by her manager at the time, Alan Boinus and published in 1999 through Random House, with co-author Jennifer Armstrong. Alan Boinus and his wife, Rosalie Boinus, among others are thanked by Opdyke in the acknowledgements[12][13]

Irene Gut Opdyke Holocaust Rescuer Foundation[edit]

The Irene Gut Opdyke Holocaust Rescuer Foundation was founded in 1997 by Alan Boinus and Rosalie Boinus in honor of Irene Opdyke to offer rewards, grants and scholarships to young people inspired by the heroic acts of Irene Gut Opdyke when she was young, so they may likewise stand up to racism, biogtry and hate.[14] It has since been disbanded.

Motion Picture Controversy[edit]

In 1998, Opdyke's story was the subject of a legal action and cross-complaint when she sought to regain the motion picture rights to tell the authorized account of her life story, which she had previously assigned in a motion-picture option agreement. Copyright attorney Carole Handler represented Opdyke and worked with the parties to reach an agreement. The case was dismissed with prejudice.[15]

Play[edit]

A play based on the book In My Hands, entitled Irena's Vow, opened on Broadway on 29 March 2009 to mixed reviews.[16] It was written by Dan Gordon and starred Tovah Feldshuh as Irena Gut.[17] It had earlier premiered off-Broadway at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York City. After failing to find an audience, the play closed on 28 June 2009.[17][18]

Song[edit]

In 2012, the British songwriter with Polish roots, Katy Carr released a song inspired by Irena entitled Mała little Flower[19] on her album Paszport. On 26th Sept 2012, Trojka Radio in Poland nominated the song, song of the week[20] In July 2014, Katy Carr's album Paszport was voted Best Concept Album in the 13th Independent Music Awards.[21][22]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Atwood, Kathryn (2011). Women Heroes of World War II. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. p. 37. ISBN 9781556529610.
  2. ^ Atwood, Kathryn (2011). Women Heroes of World War II. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. p. 36. ISBN 9781556529610.
  3. ^ a b Joyce Jensen, In Her Hands by Irene Opdyke, International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
  4. ^ Atwood, Kathryn (2011). Women Heroes of World War II. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. p. 39. ISBN 9781556529610.
  5. ^ Gut Opdyke, Irene (April 2001). In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer. New York: Anchor Books, a division of Random House. p. 190.
  6. ^ Atwood, Kathryn (2011). Women Heroes of World War II. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. p. 41. ISBN 9781556529610.
  7. ^ Atwood, Kathryn (2011). Women Heroes of World War II. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. p. 41. ISBN 9781556529610.
  8. ^ "Pope recognizes Yorba Linda woman's WWII sacrifice", Lori Haycox, The Orange County Register, 10 June 1995.
  9. ^ {{cite web|url=http://www.achuka.co.uk/special/opdyke.htm
  10. ^ ABC Primetime Live air date June 10, 1998{{cite web|url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn2g6cNcbPo>
  11. ^ https://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Features/Roman-Haller-and-his-zeide Roman Haller and His Zeide -- How a Jewish couple took in the Wehrmacht officer who hid them by Donald Snyder][The Jerusalem Post]
  12. ^ "Reading Group Center - Knopf Doubleday". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
  14. ^ {{cite web|url=http://articles.latimes.com/1998/jun/09/local/me-58065/2
  15. ^ "Holocaust Heroine Is Satisfied With Accord", Los Angeles Times, 12 April 2000.
  16. ^ "What's Wrong with this Spring's Broadway Plays", Richard Zoglin, TIME, 6 April 2009.
  17. ^ a b "Irena's Vow". Archived from the original on July 23, 2012. Retrieved 2014-02-18.. Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  18. ^ "Irena's Vow to close: Broadway play was struggling to find audience", Gordon Cox, Variety, 25 June 2009.
  19. ^ Official music video for Mała little Flower by Katy Carr. YouTube. 29 December 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  20. ^ "Katy Carr – Mała Little Flower". PolskieRadio.pl. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  21. ^ "Independent Music Awards - Katy Carr".
  22. ^ "Independent Music Awards". awardsandwinners.com. Retrieved 2 September 2015.

References[edit]