During the Holocaust, the worst evils perpetrated by humans was witnessed. So, too, were some of the bravest and most altruistic acts. Many of these acts of courage and kindness were performed by those advocates and allies of the Jewish people we have told you about. This week, we meet one of these heroes who saved many lives during this, the darkest period of history.
Sister Gertruda Stanislawa Marciniak was a nun who was arrested by the Nazis soon after their occupation of Poland began. However, when Sister Gertruda was released, her conviction to help those targeted by the Nazi regime became even more determined. The Nazis were very afraid of any communicable disease, which they feared they could catch from undesirables. Sister Gertruda ran a home for girls afflicted with tuberculosis, and used this fear to save others from the Nazis. In the home for sick girls, the nun not only hid members of the Polish resistance, but also sheltered Jewish children who would otherwise have been sent off to their deaths.
Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial, tells the story of children saved by this brave Christian woman:
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.
For her heroic actions that changed the fate of innocent children - while threatening her own fate - Sister Gertruda was named Righteous Among the Nations in 2007.