Irene Gut Opdyke

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Irene Opdyke (née Irena Gut, 5 May 1922, Kozienice, Poland – 17 May 2003) was a Polish nurse who gained recognition for aiding Jews persecuted by the Nazis during World War II and for saving twelve Jews.

Humanitarian efforts[edit]

In 1942, Irena Gut witnessed Nazi soldiers throw a baby into the air and shoot the child dead. During the German occupation, Gut was hired by Major Eduard Rügemer to work in a kitchen of a hotel. She would take food from the hotel and smuggle it to the local ghetto.[1]

Later, she smuggled Jews into the woods and delivered food to them there as well. Rügemer then asked Gut to work as a housekeeper in his villa. She hid 12 Jews in the cellar and each day they would come out and help her clean the house. One day Rügemer found out about the refugees in his house and made a deal with Gut to become his mistress.[1] In 1944, she and several Jews fled until Russian forces occupied Poland. After the war, she made her way to West Germany and then to the United States.

In 1982, she was recognized and honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.


On 9 June 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 a synagogue in Irvine, California. The blessing had been obtained for her by Alan Boinus and by Monsignor Joseph Karp of the Polish Catholic Church in Yorba Linda, California. The blessing was the first recognition by the Roman Catholic Church of her heroic efforts during the Holocaust.[2]


Opdyke's autobiography, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer (Alfred A. Knopf; later ISBN 0385720327), was published in 1999 with the help of Alan Boinus, who helped secure her publisher Random House and co-author Jennifer Armstrong.[3][4]

In 1998 Opdyke's story was the subject of a lawsuit when she sought to regain the right to tell the "authorized" account of her life story, which she had previously assigned in a lawful 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.[5] In an ironic twist after the trial, all parties agreed that the promoter had done "nothing wrong." Mrs. Opdyke publicly acknowledged the promoter whom she had sued by thanking him in her book, In My Hands, and agreed to give him producer credit for the eventual "authorized" motion picture about her life story.


A play based on the book In My Hands, entitled Irena's Vow, opened on Broadway on 29 March 2009 to mixed reviews.[6] It was written by Dan Gordon and starred Tovah Feldshuh as Irena Gut.[7] 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.[7][8]


In 2012 the British songwriter with Polish roots, Katy Carr released a song inspired by Irena entitled Mała little Flower [9] on her album Paszport. On 26th Sept 2012 Trojka Radio in Poland nominated the song, song of the week [10] In July 2014, Katy Carr's album Paszport was voted Best Concept Album in the 13th Independent Music Awards.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "In Her Hands", Joyce Jensen, International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
  2. ^ "Pope recognizes Yorba Linda woman's WWII sacrifice", Lori Haycox, The Orange County Register, 10 June 1995.
  3. ^ Random House.
  4. ^ Jennifer Armstrong.
  5. ^ "Holocaust Heroine Is Satisfied With Accord", Los Angeles Times, 12 April 2000.
  6. ^ "What's Wrong with this Spring's Broadway Plays", Richard Zoglin, TIME, 6 April 2009.
  7. ^ a b Irena's Vow at the Wayback Machine (archived July 23, 2012). Retrieved 2014-02-18.
  8. ^ "Irena's Vow to close: Broadway play was struggling to find audience", Gordon Cox, Variety, 25 June 2009.
  9. ^ Official music video for Mała little Flower by Katy Carr. YouTube. 29 December 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  10. ^ "Katy Carr – Mała Little Flower". Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Independent Music Awards". Retrieved 2 September 2015. 

External links[edit]