Warning! The text retains the original spelling of surnames and place names by an Israeli researcher; in many cases it may not be correct. Fragments that could contain current personal data have been removed from the interview.
Name of the Interviewee: Henrika Hainsdorf, born 7.12.1937 in Lublin
Name of the Father: Yoseph-Mordecai Hainsdorf
Name of the Mother: Mina-Malka Hainsdorf
Subject of interview: Henrika Hainsdorf and her family in Lublin, Lwów, Warsaw
Henrika Hainsdorf was born in Lublin, Poland, on December 7th 1937. She was the only child of Yoseph-Mordecai and Mina-Malka Hainsdorf (nee Langfos).
Her father, Yoseph Hainsdorf, who was also a native of Lublin, was born in 1902 to educated parents who made sure to that he receive a high education. Indeed, their investment in his education paid off, as he graduated from the Vienna school of economics. Yoseph also had a brother named Israel.
Henrika's mother, Mina-Malka, was born in 1905 to David and Helena Langfos in Nowy Wiśnicz[?], Poland. She had two brothers named Aaron-Arnold and Shimon; Her father, David, was a successful accountant. Their home was a highly educated one and they also had an orientation towards Zionism. All three children received a high education: Mina attended the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, after graduating from the Jewish school; her brother, Aaron, studied engineering; and Shimon had a degree in agronomy. All three were also devoted members of the Jewish "Ha'shomer Ha'tzair", so the main reason that Shimon chose to study Agronomy was so that he could immigrate to Israel and help to develop its agriculture. Indeed, he managed to fulfill his dream as he immigrated to Israel in the 1920's.
After the end of the war [WW II], Aaron married a woman by the name of Anna Sterfinkel (born in Lublin in 1920), and the two lived in Paris. Anna Sterfinkel, who was a writer, won the Ginkort [The Goncourt Prize] literary award in 1962 for her book Bagage De Sable [Pol. Bagaże z piasku, Eng. Baggage of Sand).
Yoseph-Mordecai and Mina were married in 1934 and lived in Lublin. Yoseph owned a log factory (Tartak), which allowed him to provide for his family; while Mina worked as a teacher in the Jewish high-school in Lublin, teaching Geography and Biology. "Till this day, I'm in touch with one of my mother's students. Her name is Yocheved Flomineker [Flumenker] and she lives in Israel" exclaims Henrika proudly.
The couple had many friends from their days in the "Ha'shomer Ha'tzair" movement. Among some of their friends were a woman named Katka, whose son went on to be the famous Israeli poet Dan Almagor; and Hanka Shechner whose son, Dr. Shechner, is one of the most renowned surgeons in Israel. "The thing I remember most about my parents' home" recalls Henrika, "is my parents' favorite Bridge game".
With the invasion of the Germans to Poland in 1939, Jewish were beginning to be abducted in the streets and taken away to perform forced labor. Roomers began to swirl saying that Jewish men ought to flee to Russia and begin organizing there. So Yoseph like many other men, headed out eastward.
"My mother told me that she couldn't accompany my father" explains Henrika, "since there was no room in the truck which carried him". Thus the couple separated, and Mina remained in Lublin with two year old Henrika. Little did they know that this was their final farewell. At first, Mina could keep contact with her husband through letters; first Yoseph was in Lvov, which was under Soviet regime at the time, and later he wrote that he had moved on to Włodzimierz Wołyński. Finally, all contact was lost. After the war had ended, Mina learned that her husband had decided to return to Lublin in 1942, and be reunited with her and their daughter Henrika. Sadly, he never made it. Yoseph Hainsdorf was murdered outside the city of Krazmieniec [Krzemieniec?].
In the Lublin Ghetto
Once the Lublin ghetto had been established, in March of 1941, Mina and her daughter Henrika, like all the other Jewish of Lublin, were forced to move into it. There they lived for a year together with all their surviving family members until Yoseph's mother fell gravely ill. When her situation worsened terribly the family decided she ought to be hospitalized, hoping that if she were in a hospital she would have a better chance of survival. This of course was a mistake, since the first ones to be sent by the Germans to the extermination camps were the invalids and the sick, who were hospitalized in the various hospitals and institutions. Yoseph's mother soon faced that same monstrous fate. When that happened, Mina's father, David, did his best to convince her to try to flee the ghetto and head towards Russia. He then gave her the entire amount of money and furs, which he had hidden away for just these kinds of emergencies, so that she could maintain herself and her little daughter. Mina took his advice, and indeed managed to escape the ghetto and reach Lvov.
"We managed to find a place for the night at the home of a Ukrainian woman who was letting rooms" recalls Henrika. "However, that very night an S.S officer showed up at the woman's house. He knew that she was letting rooms to polish refugees, and so he came to search whether there were any Jewish in hiding. Mother, of course, denied our identity. Still, the man was an expert 'Jew Hunter' and he could smell that mother was concealing our true identity from him, so he turned to me and ordered: 'Przeżegnaj!' which means 'Cross Yourself!' Being only four years old, I of course had no understanding of Christian terminology. All I knew is that the word 'Przeżegnaj' sounded to me like the word 'Pozegnaj', which means 'Bye Bye'. So I waved at the German. This was indeed a trap and I innocently fell right into it, immediately revealing our Jewish identity to him. He then turned to the landlady and told her that since he had already killed so many Jewish children and had seen so much blood, he was going to go home and only return the next day. Finally, he took off, not before warning her not to let us escape before he returns. All that night, mother recited the Christian prayers to me so that if I'm ever tested again I won't fail. But when morning came we knew that our only option was to run; and even though the Ukrainian woman wouldn't let us leave, we were fortunate enough when we realized that the German officer wasn't coming back. When the Ukrainian woman realized that mother had money, she took away everything and left us only enough to return to the Lublin ghetto, which according to her was where we belonged. So, having no other choice, we were forced to return to the Lublin ghetto".
After being back in the ghetto for some time, Mina decided that it was about time to try and escape again. This time she was planning to head towards the Warsaw ghetto, since she had heard that the living conditions there were somewhat better.
In Warsaw ghetto; hiding on the "aryan" side
Upon their arrival to Warsaw ghetto, they encountered an extraordinary man- a Polish police officer named Jan Kubicki, who was doing all he could to smuggle Jews out of the ghetto and find hiding places for them. The Brave Jan Kubicki then smuggled Mina and Henrika out of the ghetto and sent them to hide out in a village called Śliwicze [Śliwice?] near Warsaw. He also went as far as arranging false identification papers for them, so that they could live under a false Polish identity.
For all he had done to rescue the Jews, Jan Kubicki received the title of "Righteous Among Nations" from the "Yad-Va'shem" holocaust memorial museum in Israel . Mina and Henrika's papers stated their new Polish manes, which were distinctly Polish: Henrika's new name was Christina Sovyerka [Krystyna Sowierka?], and Mina was from that moment on going to be called Wanda Sovyerka.
"Mother made me memorize my new name over and over again" explains Henrika, "she was so afraid that I'll forget it. She nicknamed me 'Krisha' [Krysia] and I began to understand that the Germans were killing Jews so I had to be called by a name that wasn't Jewish. One day, as I was playing with the other village children, I saw smoke from a huge fire coming from a distance. This was the burning of the Warsaw ghetto, and when the other children told me that Jewish are being burned, I in my childish innocence replied that we will not be burned because we had already changed our names. Of course, when I told my mother that, she realized that I had exposed us to the children and that meant that we were in danger once again. She therefore immediately approached our friend, Polish officer Jan Kubicki, and asked for his help. He then took us into his house, and a short time later managed to secure a hiding place for us, in number 5 Piusa Street in Warsaw. When we arrived in our new place, we discovered that the first floor of the building, where we rented the room to hide in, was a restaurant. We also soon discovered that Germans would come to the restaurant to dine and dance every evening. Ironically, I spent many nights as a child dancing in the restaurant with German soldiers, who naturally didn't know about my true identity".
Henrika keeps on describing the absurd situation in which she lived in occupied Warsaw by adding that she also remembers there was another Jewish woman living in that building with her son. "When the Germans learned of her true identity" recalls Henrika, "they came to arrest her. At that moment, she attempted to commit suicide and she jumped out of the window. I will never ever forget the sight of that woman sprawled on the pavement, shouting at the Germans: 'Just kill me and get it over with!
Fortunately for us, mother was a cosmetic vender who sold her products on the street. This allowed her to move from street to street easily and, with the help of our friend Jan Kubicki, find a hiding places for her brother Aaron as well. Jan helped Aaron flee from Lublin to Warsaw and it was our responsibility to find a hiding places for him, so we would roam the streets for days on end".
Mina had an aunt who was hiding with her son in the home of a Polish woman named Sophia Mogojevska. So she needed to pass on money to the Polish woman for keeping her relatives. Many times she would "loan" Henrika to one of her good friends, either Sara Roar or Yustina [Justyna] Gertler, so that they could walk down the street with her and not arouse the suspicion of the German officers. Everyone knew that Jewish children weren't walking the streets of Warsaw freely, so with Henrika with them, Mina's friends could walk in the streets without being suspected of being Jewish. "I can still remember the nightmare of the endless wondering in the streets" remembers Henrika sadly.
The outbreak of the Polish rebellion in Warsaw caught Henrika and her mother on the streetcar. They were just coming off the streetcar, and were forced to spend the entire night in the stairwell of one of the buildings due to the ongoing shooting in the streets. It wasn't before the next morning that they somehow managed to get back to the house in number 5 Piusa, while miraculously dodging the gunshots in the streets. Henrika can still remember how she tried to cross herself to show that she was Christian, while running through the streets with her mother. She remembers the entire Polish rebellion from the view point of a child: There was nothing to eat" she explains, "my entire daily meal consisted of a cube of brown sugar".
After the war
After the rebellion was over, Henrika and her mother moved to the village of Łowicz, where they stayed up until the end of the war. In 1946 Henrika and Mina returned to Lublin to be reunited with their surviving relatives: Mina's brother Aaron, who had lived in Warsaw and survived; Mina's aunt Yehudit Gertler and her son, who were in hiding in Warsaw; and even the cousins who survived due to the fact that they had fled to Russia and now returned to Lublin. The rest of the family members, who had remained in Lublin, perished in the holocaust like the rest of the Jewish of the Lublin ghetto, probably in the Bełżec extermination camp.
After about a year, Mina and Henrika uprooted to Silesia and later settled in Wrocław, where Henrika graduated from school and began attending a music academy. Back in Silesia Henrika had joined the Zionist "Ha'shomer Ha'tzair" ("The Youth Guards"), and she continued this Zionist activity in Wroclaw as well up until 1949, when Zionist activity was outlawed in Poland. Mina, who had been a student Jagiellonian University, passed a qualification course for Bacteriologists and received the position of a laboratory manager in Wroclaw.
In 1957, Mina and Henrika immigrated to Israel. Truly, Mina had wished to immigrated much sooner, but the Polish authorities wouldn't allow it due to Mina's highly required occupation in Poland. Upon their arrival to Israel, Mina was appointed as the foreman of the Hematological laboratory in the city of Ramat-Gan.
Henrika, who was twenty years old at the time of her immigration, first arrived at the Ha'Zorea Kibbutz, where she studied Hebrew at an "Ulpan"- a language class for immigrants. She also continued studying music by playing piano at the music academy in Tel-Aviv. Following her wedding to Moshe Bicher in 1962, she even traveled to Paris to play the Cembalo at a continuing education program. Moshe and Henrika settled in the southern city of Lod, where Henrika spent the next 28 years of her life teaching piano at the city's conservatory.
Henrika's mother Mina passed away in 1986 at the ripe old age of 79, but not before witnessing the birth of her two beloved grandchildren [..]. May Mina's soul rest in peace.
Story of Rescue - The Kubicki Family at the Polish Righteous portal of POLIN museum