In My Hands
Set in Poland during WWII, In My Hands is the memoir of Irene Gut Opdyke, who helped rescue Jews during German occupation of Poland.
Summary: Irena Gut is a normal Polish girl in 1939. She loves her family and four sisters. And she’s pretty sure she wants to be a sister – or maybe a nurse. In fact, she’s studying to be a nurse when the Nazi bombing of Poland begins. She barely escapes with her life. But, in fact, the next 6 years of her young life, are a constant of trying to avoid brutality from both the Germans and the Russians. After being brutally abused by the Soviets, she’s locked in a Soviet hospital as a prisoner. With the help a friendly Polish doctor, she manages to escape and hide out with his aunt. Eventually, she receives the blesséd news that the Soviets are kindly letting those Polish who were separated from their families when the country was divided to be reunited. But it seems to Irena that this is just another scheme to capture and torture her again. But she manages to escape their clutches once again, only to land in the hands of the Germans. Her time working for Nazis doesn’t seem quite as bad. She works for a rather friendly German cook and, it’s during this time, that she starts hiding away Jews from the nearby ghetto. When the Nazi, Major Rügemer, asks her to keep house for him, she finds the blessing of a basement with hidden rooms. Rügemer has just provided her with the perfect place to hide away Jews. And right under the Nazis’s noses. Of course, this is hardly the end of Irena’s problems. She finds herself again and again fighting for her life and for the lives of the Jews she has promised to protect. But, she has decided, she has been called on by God to protect these people and to fight both the Germans and the Soviets for the sake of her beloved Poland.
In My Hands is truly an amazing account of a real young women – only in her early 20’s – who was actually willing to sacrifice everything for someone else. And Irena experienced it from both ends. Remember that the invasion of Poland by Germany started WWII. But a mere 17 days later, the Soviet Union also invaded Poland; this beautiful country was divided in half. And Irena was one of the poor souls who was stuck on the Soviet side, working as a slave in a hospital. Because what else do you call someone who is forced to work with no pay?
Yes, Irena got lucky time and time again. A Polish doctor helped her escape from the hospital and she stayed with his aunt for a year. And the German cook she worked for, Herr Shultz, protected her. I guess we’ll never really know whether or not he knew what she was doing. If he did, he looked the other way. Not every German would have done that. And then Major Rügemer, without realizing it, provided her with the perfect hiding place for so many Jews. Even when he [spoilers!] found out himself, he saved her.
So, yes, she got lucky time and again. But she was also captured by the Soviets on several occasions and only managed to survive because she was able to escape. But the point to focus on is that she was willing to sacrifice everything for someone else – and for her country. How many people today are willing to do the same?
So, do you want a real-life story about self-sacrifice? About someone who hid the Jews from the Germans – right under their noses? Then this is definitely a book worth checking out.
Featured in: Polish Resistance
Goodreads: In My Hands: Memoirs of a Holocaust Rescuer