Sister Gertruda Stanisława Marciniak
Sister Gertruda Stanisława Marciniak, a nun in the Elizabethan Order, studied teaching and began working in an orphanage in Grabie, eventually becoming headmistress of the local school.
At the beginning of the German occupation, Sister Gertruda was arrested. After her release in the fall of 1940, she went to Warsaw and then to Świder, where she set up an orphanage and an adjacent home for girls suffering from tuberculosis. Exploiting the Germans’ fear of contagious diseases, Sister Gertruda used the home as a cover for hiding resistance members, as well as a group of children rescued from a transport set to depart from Warsaw's Zachodni Station.
A particular feat of bravery on the part of the Elizabethan sisters was the harboring of Jewish children from Otwock and its environs, among them Marysia Osowiecka, Rutka (Ruth) Noj and Dan Landsberg. All these children held forged birth certificates provided by the local priest, Ludwik Wolski.
Rose and Max Noj recalled that when they first brought Ruth to Sister Gertruda, she had said: “Once a child has come to me, their fate will be my fate too."
Dan Landsberg visited the orphanage many years later, finding Sister Gertruda on her deathbed. She told him how the Nazis had once burst into the home in search of Jewish children. Dan was still very young, and didn't really understand what was happening. Sister Gertruda covered him up with her habit and stood motionless until the Germans left. "Such were these 'occupation mothers' who sheltered Jewish children, giving us life every day," Dan told Yad Vashem.
Dan's mother had been brought up in the orphanage run by Janusz Korczak. His father owned a construction company. He had built the family house, which was burned down during the war. The entire family had ended up in the Otwock ghetto, but during its liquidation his parents had managed to escape, and smuggled Dan into the Elizabethan home. There he received a birth certificate in the name of Wojciech Płochowski. After a time Dan was placed with a Polish family, where he survived the war. His father and most of his relatives were killed, but his mother survived and found him after liberation. She later married a Pole who had helped her during the war. Dan moved to Israel in 1965, where he built a large family of his own.
On July 22, 2007, Sister Gertruda Stanisława Marciniak was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.