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Schoolgirls take history project to the international stage

Their 1999 research on an unsung hero who sheltered Jewish children during the Holocaust has become a play that's been performed abroad – and brought recognition to a Polish woman.

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Megan Felt (r.) plays the role of Irena Sendler in 'Life in a Jar,' in Fort Scott, Kan. The play celebrates the life of Sendler, who helped rescue 2,500 Jewish children during the Holocaust.

charlie riedel/ap

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An international play touting an unsung hero came about after three teenagers got a hold of a magazine clip with a list of obscure Holocaust heroes.

One person on it, Irena Sendler, helped rescue 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto during the Holocaust more than 60 years ago, the clip said.

"We thought maybe it was a typo," said Megan Felt, who was a high school freshman in 1999 along with Sabrina Murphy and Elizabeth Cambers Hutton. "Even Oskar Schindler saved only about 1,000 Jews, and he was really well known."

The girls dug up what they could and wrote a short play about her for a history project. They told how Ms. Sendler, a Catholic, sneaked into the Warsaw ghetto at great risk to herself, took children from Jewish families, smuggled them out, and placed them with Catholic families, convents, or orphanages.

As she worked, Sendler wrote down the name of each child and some family history and stuffed the information into milk jars she buried in a neighbor's yard. She hoped that those names would be unearthed and used to piece families back together when the killing ended.

The girls called their play "Life in a Jar." The count is now up to about 230 performances across the US, Canada, and Poland. The young women, most of whom did not have passports and did not know any Jewish people when they started the project, visited Sendler three times in Warsaw, met diplomats and survivors, and saw Auschwitz and Treblinka.

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