Canisius students sat rapt in the auditorium as Ms. Jeannie Smith told stories that painted a picture of the atrocities her mother witnessed and experienced during the Holocaust. Her riveting storytelling also described the ways her mother, Irene Gut, as a young Polish Catholic woman risked her life to save Jews.
Irene Gut OpDyke died in 2003, but her stories live on thanks to her daughter, Jeannie, who travels around the country and internationally speaking to groups. Irene received international recognition for her actions during the Holocaust while working for a high-ranking German official. Irene's life story was recently told on Broadway in the nationally acclaimed play "Irena's Vow". Irene's book "In My Hands - Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer" is used in classrooms around the country.
The Israeli Holocaust Commission named Irene one of the Righteous among the Nations; a title given to those who risked their lives by aiding and saving Jews during the Holocaust. She was presented with the Israel Medal of Honor: Israel's highest tribute in a ceremony at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. The Vatican has given Irene a special commendation and her story is part of a permanent exhibit in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.
Canisius High School thanks Ms. Smith for sharing her mother's first hand experiences and examples of living as "Men and Women for and with Others".