Hanna Pinkert (Hanna Langer)

Hanna Pinkert was born in Warsaw on July 20th 1927. Her father, Zygmunt, was a clerk in Credit Bank. Her mother did not work. A few years before the war, Hania's mother, Syma (Ala) Pinkert, fell ill with tuberculosis and the family moved to Otwock. Actually, it was only Hania and her mother that move, as the father worked in Warsaw and only occasionally commuted to Otwock. To protect Hania from tuberculosis, the parents decided to put her in lodgings.

When the Otwock ghetto was created in the fall autumn of 1940, the three of them moved there. In December 1940 Hania's mother died.

The Wilners, Hania's mother's parents, i.e. Hania‘s grandmother Sława and her paralyzed, wheelchair-bound husband Icchak, who lived in Otwock up to that point, moved to the ghetto in Warsaw. Hania moved in with them and stayed there until the fall, when she and her father returned to the ghetto in Otwock where the rigor was not as strict as in the Warsaw ghetto. Although the Otwock ghetto was also closed and guarded, it was quite easy to get through to the so-called "Aryan side". It was hard to get out of the Warsaw Ghetto. You could try to get past the guards with the workers, who were taken every day to work on the Aryan side, or by the court buildings. The courts were located on the ghetto border and had entrances on both sides: Jewish and Aryan. On the Aryan side blackmailers were on the lookout for people who were leaving and accosted and blackmailed anyone who looked Jewish.

A wife of one of the clerks who worked there helped Hania get through the courts. The wife of doctor Kacperski, who had treated Hania's mother, picked her up outside and transported her by train to Otwock. Hania's father came to the Otwock ghetto on his own. They made their living by selling their belongings until the liquidation of the Otwock ghetto on 19th August 1942.
When Hania and her father left the Warsaw ghetto, her grandparents, the Wilners, remained there, together with their other daughter (Hania's aunt), Anna Różycka, her husband Jakub and son Oleś.

In the spring of 1942 the Germans stormed into the flat on 11 Mylna St. They threw the grandfather, Icchak Wilner out the window, along with the wheelchair to which he was strapped. They also killed Jakub Różycki, the Wilners' son Józef and their cousin Józef Weissblatt. In total, four men from the Wilner family were murdered on that day. After that, the widowed Wilner grandmother, along with her widowed daughter and her young son, escaped from the Warsaw ghetto and fled to Otwock. Two friends of the grandmother, sisters Zofia Sydry and Czesława Dietrich, owners of a villa adjacent to the Pinkiert's house, found a shelter for all three of them in Anthony Serafin's house. Thus, Hania's grandmother and aunt with her little son found themselves outside the ghetto in Otwock, while Hania and her father were still in the town’s ghetto.

Serafin had a large, two-storey house, that was still quite new. He and his friend Stanisława occupied part of the first floor . The rest of the ground floor was converted into a goat pen. The Jews, all of whom were without papers, occupied the second floor. Only one of the women, a Jew with so-called "good looks", Janka Bryl, would use the documents of Serafin's mentally ill wife, who permanently resided in a psychiatric institution.

It has to be added that, in return for lodging a total of ten people, Serafin and Stanisława received payments of "as much as everyone could afford". For the food they charged only its actual cost. They were noble and righteous people, devout Catholics. Every Sunday they participated in Mass and listened to sermons. They also regularly went to confession. And in their sermons, the parson, Reverend Ludwik Wolski and the vicar, Father John Raczkowski, condemned German crimes against Jews as well as the crimes of domestic bandits and extortionists.

The Serafins, surely must have been afraid. Like anyone else risked their life for others on a daily basis. Their hesitation and doubts were dispelled by the Otwock priests in their Sunday sermons. They would come back from church assured that they were fulfilling their Christian duty and must not refrain from helping the needy. On the day of ghetto‘s liquidation, Hania and her father managed to avoid deportation. They hid somewhere in the attic all night and left the ghetto in the morning. The day was sunny and hot. Fleeing through the forest towards the Świder river they encountered a group of sunbathers who, having realized they are dealing with escapees from the ghetto, drove them away. Only a young woman gave the starved couple a sandwich and advised them to go to Świder, to the village head called Kłos, who would help them. Kłos pointed at the attic and told them to wait until he sent someone. They waited until the evening. They did not know whether to expect a person that would help or a blackmailer, who would give them away. It was Kłos's son, Staszek, who brought them help and food. At the request of Hania's father, he went to Otwock and notified Zofia Sydry and her sister, Czesława Dietrich, about their current location after the escape from the ghetto. They in turn notified the Wilner grandmother. The grandmother, together with Zofia and Czesława, pleaded with the Serafins to accommodate her granddaughter with her father, but they firmly refused. They were already hiding eight Jews. They had to feed them, which meant getting food and bringing it home. The sacks of bread and other products that Serafin brought home attracted attention. More people brought more risk. In the end, however, Hania's grandmother's tears and supplications made him agree to accommodate Hania and, later, her father as well.

Thus Hania, with nine other people, spent two years on the upper floor . She came downstairs only once a day, at night, to take out a bucket with excrements and bring back fresh water. During the day everyone had to keep quiet, because anyone, at any time could come to the hosts to buy goat's milk.

Bunk beds with straw mattresses had been put up in several rooms on the upper floor. Hania slept in one bed with her grandmother, next to aunt Anna who slept with Oleś. In one of the rooms a kitchen had been arranged. The Serafins delivered food and the grandmother prepared meals.
One day, when Janka Bryl, who passed for the owner's wife, was busy in the kitchen, a uniformed German appeared in the house, along with two civilians. All three spoke Polish. The German knew, perhaps from an informer, that the documents, which Janka presented, were not hers and that she was a Jew. They took her to the forest. They wanted to kill her. As they debated where to do so, Janka stopped them by promising valuables in exchange for her life. They returned to the Serafins' house, where the uniformed man, in the absence of the civilians, took the ransom. Janka's husband had been a jeweller in Poznań. The jewellery was worth an enormous amount of money. Later, while plundering the house, the German discovered the remaining Jews. He told them not to be afraid, because as a "decent man" he had already taken the bribe and would leave them alone. Indeed, he did not come again, although, as he was leaving, he wanted to take Hania with him, on the pretext of inviting her to dinner. The girl's father explained to him that if he raped a Jewish woman, he could be accused of race defilement.

After the blackmailers' visit at the Serafins', the vicar, Father Jan Raczkowski, who was the Serafins' confessor, took aunt Różycka, who had "good looks", with Oleś, and arranged for their accommodation and documents, which showed that Anna Różycka was the priest's mother's cousin. Both priests from the parish of Vincent de Paul in Otwock, Reverend Wolski and Father Raczkowski, helped Jews in many ways: they issued fake baptism certificates, found flats where the Jews could hide, and in their Sunday sermons urged their parishoners to support those in need.

Liberation finally came at the end of the summer in 1944. Soviet troops entered Otwock without any fighting. On Serafin's request, the Jews slipped out of the house separately. He did not want the neighbours to find out that he had been hiding them.

After the war, Hania and her father moved to Gdańsk. She attended night school and in 1948 graduated and began medical studies. After returning to Warsaw in 1953, she received a degree in Medicine from Warsaw University. She had a specialization in paediatrics.
Neither her nor her father kept their original surname. They assumed the name Pieńkowski. The father died in 1954. The Wilner grandmother with her daughter Anna Różycka and grandson Oleś emigrated to Israel in 1950. The grandmother died in 1970. Hania married Bernard Langer and in 1968, with her husband and a thirteen-year-old son Tomek, also emigrated to Israel. In 1993 she retired. She and her husband live in Ra'anana. They have three grandchildren.

Those who helped Hania and her father survive the war:
Righteous Among the Nations – Reverend Ludwik Wolski - received the title in 2009

Those, who deserve the title of the Righteous, but no one has nominated them yet:
Czesława Dietrich and Zofia Sydry, Otwock, 5 Jarema Wiśniowiecki St. (?)
Antoni Serafin and his friend Stanisława, Otwock, 3 Zosia St., Horoszowski villa
Kłos, the head of the Świder village, and his son Staszek
Fr. John Raczkowski - vicar of the parish of Vincent de Paul in Otwock
Dr Kacperski, phtysiatrist in Otwock, and his wife

Those who were hidden by Antoni Serafin and his friend Stanisława:
Hanna Pinkert, born 1927
Zygmunt Pinkert, born 1889 - died 1954, Hania's father
Sława Wilner, born c. 1874 - died 1970, Hania's grandmother
Anna Różycka nee Wilner, born c. 1910, Hania's grandmother's daughter, Hania's aunt
Aleksander Różycki, born 1935
Izabella Czajka Stachowicz, born 1898 - died 1969
Fryc Zajdler (Władysław Stachowicz), born c. 1895 - died ?, Isabella's husband
Janka Bryl nee Kornwizor, born ? - died ?, wife of the jeweller from Poznań
Basia Kornwizor, born c. 1905 - died ?, Janka's sister
(A girl) Kornwizor, born c. 1938 - died ?, Janka and Basia's niece, taken out of the ghetto in a sack by Basia