Jeannie Smith for Her Mother Irene Gut OpDyke
Jeannie Smith is the daughter of Polish rescuer Irene Gut OpDyke who passed away on May 18, 2003. 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 each night on Broadway in the nationally acclaimed play “Irena’s Vow” staring Tovah Feldshuh.
Irene’s book – “In My Hands” – Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer from Random House relays the detailed account of her life during the Second World War and 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. In 2008 Irene was presented posthumously the Commanders Cross – the Polish medal of honor, given by the president and First Lady of Poland and in 2009 Irene was presented posthumously the Courage to Care award by the Anti Defamation League in a special ceremony in Washington DC: both of these awards we’re accepted by Irene’s only child – Jeannie Smith.
Jeannie resides in Woodland, Washington with her husband Gary. She is the mother of two sons and the grandmother of 3 beautiful teenage grandchildren.
Jeannie is part of a new generation of Holocaust Speakers who share the life stories from their parents first hand experiences. She is a member and speaker for the Oregon & Washington Holocaust Speakers Bureau, a regular speaker for the Anti-Defamation League’s Bearing Witness Program and a national speaker for the Jewish Federation of North America.
She travels to schools, churches, camps, organizations, fund raising groups and clubs throughout the United States, Canada and the UK.
The story she tells, although filled with the horrors and hate of the Holocaust, also brings a message of faith, love and hope that good can triumph over evil. It proclaims the conviction that one by one we can say no to hatred, persecution and prejudice. The story speaks of the power of love and encourages the fact that “One person can make a difference!”