|Name:||Irene Gut Opdyke|
|Birth Day:||May 5, 1922|
|Death Date:||May 17, 2003 (age 81)|
As per our current Database, Irene Gut Opdyke died on May 17, 2003 (age 81).
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She was hired during the German occupation to work in the kitchen of a hotel and would take food to the local ghetto to help the hungry.
Irena Gut was born into a Catholic family with five daughters in Kozienice, Poland, during the interwar period. The family moved to Radom, where she enrolled at the nursing school before the Nazi-Soviet invasion of 1939. At the age of 20, Gut witnessed a German soldier kill an infant in 1942. This event transformed her life. During the German occupation, Gut was hired by Wehrmacht Major Eduard Rügemer to work in a kitchen of a hotel that frequently served Nazi officials. Inspired by her religious faith, Gut secretly took food from the hotel and delivered it to the Tarnopol Ghetto.
Gut smuggled Jews out of the ghetto into the surrounding forest and delivered food for them there. Meanwhile, Rügemer asked Gut to work as a housekeeper in his requisitioned villa. She hid 12 Jews in the cellar. They would come out and help her clean the house when he was not around. Rügemer found out about the Jews she was hiding. At risk to all their lives, Rügemer kept Gut's secret, and she became his mistress. Rügemer fled with the Germans in 1944 ahead of the Russian advance. Gut and several Jews also fled west from Soviet occupied Poland to Allied-occupied Germany. She was put in a Displaced Persons camp, where she met William Opdyke, a United Nations worker from New York City. She emigrated to the United States and married Opdyke shortly thereafter. They raised a family together.
After years of silence regarding her wartime experience, in 1975 Opdyke was convinced to speak after hearing a neo-Nazi claim that the Holocaust never occurred. Opdyke began a public speaking career which culminated in her memoir In My Hands: Memoirs of a Holocaust Rescuer. In 1982, Irena Opdyke née Gut was recognized and honored by Yad Vashem as one of the Polish 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 Shir Ha-Ma'alot synagogue in Irvine, California, along with an invitation from Pope John Paul II for her to have an audience with him. The papal blessing and audience with the Pope had been obtained for her by congregant Alan Boinus with the help of Monsignor Joseph Karp of the Polish Catholic Church in Yorba Linda, California. The papal blessing was the first recognition by the Roman Catholic Church of her efforts during the Holocaust. Irene Gut Opdyke said, "This is the greatest gift I can receive for whatever I did in my life."
In July 1997, Irene Opdyke traveled to Israel with her manager, Alan Boinus, and his wife, publicist Rosalie Boinus, on a television story arranged by the Boinuses for ABC Primetime Live, which aired on 10 June 1998, re-uniting Opdyke with Hermann Morks, one of the twelve Jews whose lives she saved.
The Irene Gut Opdyke Holocaust Rescuer Foundation was founded in 1997 by Alan Boinus and Rosalie Boinus in honor of Irene Opdyke to offer awards, grants, and scholarships to young people inspired by the heroic acts of Irene Gut Opdyke when she was young, so they may likewise stand up to racism, bigotry, and hate. It has since been disbanded.
In 1998, Opdyke's story was the subject of a legal action and cross-complaint when she sought to regain the motion picture rights to her life story, which she had previously assigned in an option agreement. Copyright attorney Carole Handler represented Opdyke and worked with the parties to reach an agreement. The case was dismissed with prejudice.
Opdyke's memoir, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer (Alfred A. Knopf; later ISBN 0385720327), was arranged by her then-manager Alan Boinus and published in 1999 through Random House, with co-author Jennifer Armstrong. Alan Boinus and his wife, Rosalie Boinus, among others, are thanked by Opdyke in the acknowledgements.
A play based on the book In My Hands, Irena's Vow, opened on Broadway on 29 March 2009 to mixed reviews. It was written by Dan Gordon and starred Tovah Feldshuh as Irena Gut. 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.
In 2012, Katy Carr, a British songwriter with Polish roots, released a song inspired by Opdyke titled "Mała Little Flower" on her album Paszport. On 26 September 2012, Trojka Radio in Poland nominated it song of the week.
Currently, Irene Gut Opdyke is 100 years, 4 months and 21 days old. Irene Gut Opdyke will celebrate 101st birthday on a Friday 5th of May 2023.
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