“Shipman dazzles in this historical tour-de-force based on the real-life story of WWII Polish resistance fighter Irena Sendler . . . spellbinding." —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Based on the gripping true story of an unlikely Polish resistance fighter who helped save thousands of Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto during World War II, bestselling author James D. Shipman’s Irena’s War is a heart-pounding novel of courage in action, helmed by an extraordinary and unforgettable protagonist.
September 1939: The conquering Nazis swarm through Warsaw as social worker Irena Sendler watches in dread from her apartment window. Already, the city’s poor go hungry. Irena wonders how she will continue to deliver food and supplies to those who need it most, including the forbidden Jews. The answer comes unexpectedly.
Dragged from her home in the night, Irena is brought before a Gestapo agent, Klaus Rein, who offers her a position running the city’s soup kitchens, all to maintain the illusion of order. Though loath to be working under the Germans, Irena learns there are ways to defy her new employer—including forging documents so that Jewish families receive food intended for Aryans. As Irena grows bolder, her interactions with Klaus become more fraught and perilous.
Klaus is unable to prove his suspicions against Irena—yet. But once Warsaw’s half-million Jews are confined to the ghetto, awaiting slow starvation or the death camps, Irena realizes that providing food is no longer enough. Recruited by the underground Polish resistance organization Zegota, she carries out an audacious scheme to rescue Jewish children. One by one, they are smuggled out in baskets and garbage carts, or led through dank sewers to safety—every success raising Klaus’s ire. Determined to quell the uprising, he draws Irena into a cat-and-mouse game that will test her in every way—and where the slightest misstep could mean not just her own death, but the slaughter of those innocents she is so desperate to save.
Shipman (Task Force Baum) dazzles in this historical tour-de-force based on the real-life story of WWII Polish resistance fighter Irena Sendler. In 1939, Nazi forces take over Warsaw, forcing 500,000 Jews into an overcrowded, walled-off ghetto. Social worker Irena is determined to continue to provide food to those in need, so when a Nazi officer offers her the opportunity to continue running the city's soup kitchen, she accepts and begins forging documents that allow some of those in the ghetto to continue receiving government aid. Soon, Irena joins the resistance group Zegota and helps smuggle Jewish children out of the ghetto (often through the sewers) to safety. Irena continues saving Jewish children from certain death more than 2,500, according to an author's note about the real Irena until she is arrested by the Gestapo in October 1943. The author's impeccable research, gripping prose, and pitch-perfect pacing bring an immediacy to the atrocities wreaked on Jews and other "undesirables." Shipman's humbling, spellbinding tale is a standout among recent works of Holocaust fiction.