The Truth – and the Pitfalls – of forwarding emails

I’ve had this post in queue for a bit, waiting for a few minutes to go through my thoughts and edit before I publish. So I’m sitting here on my front porch with a slight breeze wafting through the window. The storms that rolled through the area yesterday brought some cooler and less sticky air – for which my asthmatic lungs are extremely grateful. Anyway, the sun is shining brightly and the mockingbirds are making a lovely racket in the apple trees next door. The Viking had to go into work very early and the “J- Crew” (aka the Girls/Chaos and Mayhem) are still snoozing, and my “son from another mother” is snoozing on my living room couch. It’s an auspicious start to my vacation indeed!

We all get a lot of forwarded email in our mailboxes these days. If the headers and the first few lines of the content catch our eyes then we are quite likely to forward the information on to our friends. I was the recipient of such a chain email last weekend, sent from a dear, dear friend (one of my 4 that I’ve mentioned before). Here is the email, as it was forwarded to me, and my initial response. I have indicated in bold font my corrections for the parts I found to be in error.

English: Irena Sendlerowa, chairman of childre...

English: Irena Sendlerowa, chairman of children section of Polish underground Council to Aid Jews in Warsaw, who helped to save several thousands of Jewish children during Holocaust. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98)

Warsaw, Poland

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive. ( Irena was a social worker and used her position as such to advantage, playing on the Nazi fear of disease to go into the ghetto and check for contamination – but in reality she was looking for children to save)

Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids. ( Irena was a
Roman Catholic social worker and part of a group of resistance fighters that smuggled out approximately 2500 Jewish children from the ghetto.)

Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises. During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. (She was part of a group of people doing this and was not the only one using these techiques to save others. She was, according to her obituary ( also see link below), directly responsible for saving about 400 of those 2500 children. Or, about 16% of them.)

Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi’s broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely. (The Nazis tortured and beat her for several days, breaking her leg and a foot. She was scheduled for execution, but Zegota – the resistance organization- bribed a guard to leave her in the woods. She was rescued and spent the rest of the war in hiding)

Nazi German poster in German and Polish (Warsa...

Nazi German poster in German and Polish (Warsaw, 1942) threatening death to any Pole who aided Jews (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, in a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family. Most had been gassed Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted. (Verified)

In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming. (Verified, unfortunately…. )

Later another politician, Barack Hussein Obama, won for his work as a community organizer for ACORN. (Although I am not a fan, by any means, I can’t figure out why this particular information was included in this email – other than the fact that it always seems to be the blowhard politicians that win these accolades – when it should be the people “in the trenches” like Irena, making a difference where it counts most – one person at a time.)


I’m doing my small part by forwarding this message. I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

It is now more than 65 years since the Second World War in Europe ended.

This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated! (With the exception of the six million figure, these numbers are overstated, and some groups of people left out – see my response below for the accurate figures.)

Now, more than ever, with Iran , and others, claiming the HOLOCAUST to be ‘a myth’. It’s imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again. (Some people are just too dumb to see the indisputable truth.)

This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world. Please send this e-mail to people you know and ask them to continue the memorial chain. Please don’t just delete it. It will only take you a minute to pass this along.

Here’s my initial response:
This was really moving. However, the figures listed at the bottom were incorrect. There were anywhere between 11 and 17 million people who paid the ultimate price for Hitler’s Final Solution. These figures include numbers from Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen (the SS paramilitary death squads) who were directly responsible for at least 1 million of those deaths. Including the 33,771 killed at Babi Yar in just two days. Most information I read suggests 11 million as the most popular quoted figure. Personally I think 17 million might be too low. In any case, these figures include 6 million people of the Jewish Faith. The rest are gypsies, Russians, The Developmentally Disabled, those 1900 Catholic Priests, Jehovah’s Witnesses,and people from what today would be termed the LGBT community. Also, artists and intellectuals who disagreed openly with the Third Reich‘s policies. It is not known exactly how many others were tortured, raped, beaten or otherwise injured, although a baseline figure could be generated by looking at the Camp Censuses. (which would not include those abused who were not sent to the camps).

If you apply the “six degrees of separation” theory then these atrocities affected, and continue to affect EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the planet – then, now, and in the future. We must not forget, and we must be accurate and factual.

Sent from my iPhone, Donna

And upon further reflection:

I would say that this email affected me (no kidding, right? since I’m writing this) greatly on several levels. We have to make sure that this information is disseminated accurately. Otherwise the people with the blinders on have even more reason to call into question what happened to all these people. Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. This should never happen again, so we have to make sure we have the facts and pass them along without the hyperbole.

It also really bothers me that hardly anyone ever mentions that Hitler started these “ethnic cleansings” using the developmentally disabled – to “perfect” his killing methods – before moving on to the Jewish and other ethnicities. The developmentally disabled continue to be an undervalued, underestimated and disenfranchised group even today. I’ve worked with the DD population for almost 30 years and find they are so much more than they are given credit for! It is very important to include them up at the top of the list of those victimized by Hitler and the Third Reich. We must never forget ANY of those who suffered and died. So, the point I am finally arriving at is this: please try not to forward these types of emails until you verify the facts and discover the truth. When we have idiots out there questioning whether or not this even happened it is more important than ever that we get, and keep, our facts straight. We all know the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions……

“Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this earth, and not a title to glory.” ~ Irena Sendler, in a letter to the Polish Senate 2007

Aaron Copland;London Symphony Orchestra – Fanfare For The Common Man

Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Fanfare for the Common Man (Youtube)

Irena Sendler’s Obituary

Irena Sendler, Warsaw, Poland, 2007

Irena Sendler, Warsaw, Poland, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


5 thoughts on “The Truth – and the Pitfalls – of forwarding emails

  1. Donna, I am catching up on some of your older posts. This is excellent. I also commend you for your work with the Developmentally Disabled (DD). I saw a PBS Newshour piece with Senator Tom Harkin and Jill Houghton of the US Business Leadership group who are advocating the employment of the DD. There are numerous success stories and tax incentives behind this effort. Walgreen’s, in particular, has had a huge success with improved production due to retention and commitment from employing the DD in a distribution center. Houghton said Walgreen’s is helping to spread the word. If you did not see it, check it on their the PBS Newshour website. I found it by searching on Tom Harkin. Well done.

    • Thanks. The state is focusing on improving employment opportunities for DD folks, in fact – vendor agencies will get more per billable unit for having folks not working at a congregate setting. This presents with its own set of issues which are difficult but not insurmountable. Unfortunately the state has its blinders AND rose colored glasses on in terms of the economy. With the unemployment rate at about 7% – competition for min wage jobs is fierce. It’s an employers market, if they’re hiring at all. And they don’t have to wait around for an employee to understand the job when there’s several dozen more waiting in queue to snap it up. One of the keys for successful employment of the DD is training them on/at the site where they will actually be working. Even though it’s the exact same task, the learned skill set doesn’t transfer well to a real world setting if it’s first learned elsewhere. One of the challenges of being DD, and working with/supporting as well. I hope I’m making sense. Thanks for writing!!!

      • Thanks for the response. The key takeaway I got from the PBS Newshour piece is if you train a DD employ well, they will have a greater level of commitment to your company/ team/ department and will stay longer as a result – sometimes for the rest of their working life. So, the companies like Walgreen benefit from not having to retrain someone every six months. From both a supervisor and HR perspective, that is a huge benefit. Keep up the great work you are doing.

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