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Żegota Council to Aid Jews
Zegota(Rada Pomocy Zydom)1946.jpg
3rd anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Żegota members, Warsaw, April 1946. Seated, from right: Piotr Gajewski, Ferdynand Marek Arczyński, Władysław Bartoszewski, Adolf Berman, Tadeusz Rek [pl].
PredecessorProvisional Committee to Aid Jews
FormationSeptember 27, 1942; 77 years ago (1942-09-27)
FounderHenryk Woliński,
TypeUnderground organization
PurposeHelp and distribution of relief funds to Polish Jews in World War II
German occupied Poland
Key people
Henryk Woliński, Julian Grobelny, Ferdynand Arczyński, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz, Adolf Berman, Leon Feiner, Władysław Bartoszewski

Żegota (pronounced [ʐɛˈɡɔta] (About this soundlisten), full codename: the "Konrad Żegota Committee"[1][2]) was the Polish Council to Aid Jews with the Government Delegation for Poland (Polish: Rada Pomocy Żydom przy Delegaturze Rządu RP na Kraj), an underground Polish resistance organization, and part of the Polish Underground State, active 1942–45 in German-occupied Poland.[3] It was the successor to the Provisional Committee to Aid Jews.[4][5]

Richard C. Lukas estimated that 60,000, or about half of the Jews who survived the Holocaust in occupied Poland (such estimates vary), were aided in some shape or form by Żegota. Czesław Łuczak estimates the number of aid recipients at about 30,000.[6]

Operatives of Żegota worked in extreme circumstances - under threat of death by the Nazi forces, and sometimes in the midst of a hostile population. Their work required exceptional bravery, and many were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations after the war.

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Władysław Bartoszewski: "We have saved people, by supplying them with documents, financial grants, finding hideouts, making it easier to come back to their lives (...), but how many did we save? We tried to save dozen times more than we saved." September 1939 Poland counts about 35 million people, including 3,5 million Jews War begins, the German army occupies the country. Terror begins German Nazis start to murder Polish citizens By the end of 1939, about 50 thousand people perish By the end of the Fall of 1940 Germans kill 3500 polish politicians scientists, artists and priests Several thousand people are imprisoned in German death camps Pre-war Poland is ethnically diverse the country has the second largest Jewish population in the world Such cities as Warsaw, Vilnius or Lvov are populated by Jews in about 30% some villages and primarily small cities consist only of the Jewish population Jewish population in Poland has a strong feeling of individuality They are not in close relationships with the society Many do not speak Polish; a majority do not assimilate In future, their contacts with Poles will become crucial because these contacts will become one of the ways to be saved from the German genocide At the end of 1939 Germans introduce repressive laws against Jews in the occupied areas They establish Ghettos - tiny spaces utilized for accumulating the Jewish population Until 1941, Jews relegated from the former Polish territory are imprisoned in the Ghettos In Warsaw Ghetto there are about half a million people. Jews suffer from extreme poverty German Nazis plan to induce death by famine and illnesses to as many Jews as possible German administrator reigns in the occupied territories he has absolute power over the population. At the end of 1941 Hans Frank introduces death penalty for escaping the Ghettos And another death penalty for Poles, for even insignificant help for Jews Concealment of any information about hiding Jews Germans treat as a passive help and punish it with at least a one-way death camp ticket for helping Jews or providing a hideout or even handing a slice of bread Poles get a death penalty In the case where aid is provided, it is not only you who dies. Your entire family will be murdered. It means that you, your wife and your children will be killed. At the beginning of 1942 Secret conference takes place in Wannsee, Berlin Germans decide to kill all Jews that live in Nazi Germany and the occupied territories They choose Poland as their slaughterhouse Extermination of Jews begins with the elimination of the Ghettos In the middle of 1942 in only two months since the beginning of the removals German nazis murder over 300.000 Jews inside Treblinka extermination camp Polish conspiracy is not indifferent to this situation They start to document German Nazi crimes conspiracy agents and civilians attempt to help Jews and Poles Department of Social Care In Warsaw is involved in smuggling food and medicines into Ghettos. Catholic monasteries are engaged in hiding Jewish children. it is not easy to help many Jews do not want to leave Ghettos Many cannot speak Polish. The others want to stay with their families. Jews who can communicate are saved at first Among the heroes, there are also opportunists Considered as bandits by the most of the society Among them both Jews in the Ghettos and Poles outside. People who exploit the situation through collaboration and serving the German Nazis. to benefit, or save their own life, this includes “Jedwabne” pogrom According to the post-war, Israel's War Crime Commision estimates the number of collaborators reached few thousand on a scale of 20 million ethnic Poles Many minor helping efforts are initiated in cooperation with "Polish Democratic Organization." "Polish Union of Syndicalists" and "Freedom-Equality-Independence" Organization by the initiative of a Polish writer Zofia Kossak-Szczucka on 27th of September 1942 the Temporary Committee to Aid Jews, named after a fictional character in order to spread disinformation - is founded It is named Kondrad Zegota Codename "Zegota" The entire effort to save Jews by the Polish Underground in future will receive the name "Action Zegota." Until the end of the year Temporary Committee, aided by the Polish Government in Exile Transforms itself into the "Council to Aid Jews." It contains representatives mainly from the Polish leftist parties "Polish Socialist Party," "People's Party," "Democratic Party" a right-wing party also helps the "Rebirth of Poland Front." Unfortunately, the main right-wing party refuses to participate. Jews help as well, which makes Zegota the only official Polish - Jewish organization during the war. They share the same objective to save the Jews The effort spreads, divisions in Krakow and Lviv are established. By the March 1943. Zegota closely cooperates with Polish Government in exile in London, which helps financially and also cooperates with the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), which establishes Polish and Jewish connections and provides military intelligence. Zegota conducts the following activities: 1) produces fake documents for Jews Up to a few thousand each month. To provide Jews with a new identity 2) Delivers financial aid and housing 3) a specialized division under Irena Sendlerowa saves Jewish kids. 4) provides medical help 5) They also supply Ghettos with anti-typhus vaccines, clothing, and food 6) Zegota conducts propaganda campaigns and anti blackmail actions that target anyone who exploits the Jewish situation by committing blackmail, thievery or reporting to the Germans for criminals and their accomplices, there is only one penalty issued by the Polish Underground State: this penalty is death. Money is provided by the Polish Government in Exile in London But action is possible only because people sacrifice themselves by risking not only their lives but also lives of their families they hide Jews even in the so-called "German" side of the city. Poles are spreading information about genocide of Jews committed by Germans Foreign Jews are helping financially But because of the worsening situation under the German occupation Zegota's ability to provide help is becoming limited After the fall of the Warsaw Uprising chaos disrupts Zegota's activities But until 1945, Zegota still provides food and goods for Jewish kids and Jews in hiding the entry of the Red Army which is hostile towards the Polish government in London terminates the activity of the Council to Aid Jews - Zegota Poles released from the German occupation fall under the Soviet occupation Gunnar S. Paulsson estimated that 280.000 to 360.000 Poles were involved in helping Jews. Teresa Prekerowa estimated that 160.000 to 360.000 people were helping. Marcin Urynowicz said this number is around 300.000. Władysław Bartoszweski claimed, "at least few hundred thousand." In John Zaryn's opinion number of Poles who directly or indirectly took part in helping Jews could reach 1.000.000. Richard Lukas thinks it was at least 800.000 and up to 1.200.000 Germans introduced the collective responsibility in occupied lands of Poland, USSR, and the Baltic. Only in these countries, helping Jews was penalized with the death of your family. Poles are the most numerous among the "Righteous Among the Nations" issued to non-jews by Institute of Memory of Martyrs and Heros of Holocaust "Yad Vashem." Until 1.01.2016 the number of Poles reached 6200 decorated by Yad Vashem. Historians assume that on Polish soil under the German occupation, numbers of Jews that survived in hiding was between 40.000 to 120.000 thousand.


Background and organization

1941 German poster, in German and Polish, on death to Jews outside ghetto and to Poles who helped Jews
1941 German poster, in German and Polish, on death to Jews outside ghetto and to Poles who helped Jews
Żegota letter to Polish Government-in-Exile, requesting funds to aid Jews, January 1943
Żegota letter to Polish Government-in-Exile, requesting funds to aid Jews, January 1943
Polish Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski's leaflet appeal to help Jews, Warsaw, May 1943
Polish Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski's leaflet appeal to help Jews, Warsaw, May 1943

The Council to Aid Jews, or Żegota, was the continuation of an earlier aid organization, the Provisional Committee to Aid Jews (Tymczasowy Komitet Pomocy Żydom), that was founded on 27 September 1942 by Polish Catholic activists Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz ("Alinka"). The Provisional Committee cared for as many as 180 people, but due to political and financial reasons it was dissolved and replaced by Żegota on December 4, 1942.[2] Żegota was the brainchild of Henryk Woliński of the Home Army (AK).[clarification needed]

Kossak-Szczucka initially wanted Żegota to become an example of a "pure Christian charity", arguing that Jews had their own international charity organizations.[clarification needed] Nevertheless, Żegota was run by both Jews and non-Jews from a wide range of political movements.[7] Julian Grobelny, an activist in the prewar Polish Socialist Party, was elected as General Secretary, and Ferdynand Arczyński - a member of the Polish Democratic Party - as treasurer. Adolf Berman and Leon Feiner represented the Jewish National Committee (an umbrella group representing the Zionist parties) and the Marxist General Jewish Labour Bund. Both parties operated independently, channeling funds donated by Jewish organizations abroad to Żegota and other underground operations. Other members included the Polish Socialist Party, the Democratic Party (Stronnictwo Demokratyczne) and the Catholic Front for the Rebirth of Poland (Front Odrodzenia Polski) led by Kossak-Szczucka and Witold Bieńkowski, editors of its underground publications.[8] The right-wing National Party (Stronnictwo Narodowe) refused to take part in the organization.

Kossak-Szczucka went on to act in the Social Self-Help Organization (Społeczna Organizacja Samopomocy - SOS) as a liaison between Żegota and Catholic convents and orphanages as well as other public orphanages, which jointly hid many Jewish children.[non sequitur]


Żegota had around one hundred cells that provided food, medical care, money, and false identification documents to some 4,000 Polish Jews hiding in the "Aryan" side of the German occupation zone. The organization was active chiefly in Warsaw, where it helped some 3,000 Jews who were in hiding, but it also provided money, food, and medicines for prisoners in several forced-labor camps,[9][further explanation needed] as well as to refugees in Kraków, Wilno (Vilnius), and Lwów (L'viv). Żegota's activities overlapped to a considerable extent with those of the other major organizations - the Jewish National Committee, which cared for some 5,600 Jews; and the Bund, which cared for an additional 1,500. Together, the three organizations were able to reach some 8,500 of the 28,000 Jews hiding in Warsaw, and perhaps another 1,000 hiding elsewhere in Poland.[citation needed]

Żegota was supported by the Home Army, which provided facilities for forging German identification papers.[10][11] Żegota also forged about 50,000 other documents such as marriage certificates, baptismal records, death certificates and employment cards to help Jews pass off as Christians.[12]

Żegota's children's section in Warsaw, headed by social worker Irena Sendler, cared for 2,500 of the 9,000 Jewish children smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Many were placed with foster families, in public orphanages, church orphanages, and convents. Żegota sometimes paid for the children's care. At war's end Sendler tried to return the children to their parents,[quantify] but nearly all of the parents had died at Treblinka.[further explanation needed]

Żegota repeatedly asked the Polish Government-in-Exile and the Government Delegation for Poland to appeal to the Polish people to help the persecuted Jews.[2] The Government in Exile gradually increased its funding for Żegota throughout the war.[13][14]

Major incidents

Zofia Kossak-Szczucka was arrested in 1943 by a Gestapo unaware of the extent of her underground activities, transported to Auschwitz and liberated in 1944.[8]

Operational difficulties

Under the German occupation, hiding or assisting Jewish refugees was punishable by death.[15][16] However, it was no less dangerous due to the risk posed by fellow Poles, some of whom did not see kindly lending help for Jews.[17] Irena Sendler is quoted as saying "during [the war] it was simpler to hide a tank under the carpet than shelter a Jewish child."[18]

According to Richard C. Lukas, "The number of Poles who perished at the hands of the Germans for aiding Jews" may have been as high as fifty thousand.[19]

Financial situation

The Polish Government-in-Exile, based in London, faced immense difficulties funding its institutions in German-occupied Poland; this affected funding for Żegota as well. Part of the funds had to be sent in via highly inefficient airdrops (only some 17% of which succeeded) and some could only be delivered late in the war.[20]

Despite these difficulties, throughout the war the Polish Government-in-Exile continually increased its funding for Żegota: the Polish Government's monthly support was increased from 30,000 złoty to 338,000 złoty in May 1944, and to 1,000,000 złoty by war's end. The Polish Government's overall financial contribution to Żegota and Jewish organizations came to 37,400,000 złoty, 1,000,000 dollars, and 200,000 Swiss francs (see financial details below).[21][22][23] According to Marcin Urynowicz, the percentage of the funds allocated by the Polish Government-in-Exile to help Jews, including through Żegota, was based on their percentage in Poland's prewar general population.[24]

Antony Polonsky writes that "Zegota's successes—it was able to forge false documents for some 50,000 persons—suggest that, had it been given a higher priority by the Delegatura and the government in London, it could have done much more." Polonsky quotes Wladyslaw Bartoszewski as saying that the organization was considered a "stepchild" of the underground; and Emanuel Ringelblum, who wrote that "a Council for Aid to the Jews was formed, consisting of people of good will, but its activity was limited by lack of funds and lack of help from the government."[25] A similar description is given by historian Martin Winstone, who writes that Żegota fought an uphill battle for funding and received more support from Jewish organizations than from the Polish Government-in-Exile. He also notes that the Polish right-wing parties completely refused to support it.[17] Shmuel Krakowski described the funding as "modest", and writes that the Polish government could have allocated more to funding the organization. He writes that "[the funding] was indeed very little considering not only the needs of the council and the immensity of the Jewish tragedy, but also the resources at the Polish underground’s disposal... they could have been much more generous in allocating resources needed to save human lives."[26]

Joseph Kermish describes the relationship between Żegota and the Government Delegation for Poland as strained, with frequent disagreements about funding and the extent of the humanitarian crisis Żegota was trying to address.[27]

Funds allocated by the Government Delegation for Poland[22][23][26][28][29]
Funds allocated to Żegota
Date Sum Type Notes
May 1943 - Feb. 1944 6,250,000 zł total [28]
Jan. 1943 - May 1944 11,250,000 zł total According to Witold Bieńkowski[28]
Before May 1944 30,000 zł monthly
After May 1944 338,000 zł monthly
Nov. 1944 - Dec. 1944 14,000,00 zł total Allotted to help 1,500-1,800 Jews hiding on Warsaw's left bank[28]
Nov. 1944 - Dec. 1944 $32,000 n/a [28]
March 1945 - April 1945 $65,000 n/a [28]
By Sept. 1945 1,000,000 zł monthly
1939-1945 $250,000 total Sum of all funds allocated to Żegota expressed in USD[26]
Funds allocated to all Jewish organizations
1939-1945 37,400,000 zł


200,000 CHF

total Combined total, including the funds allocated to Żegota
Funds allocated to all organizations
1939-1945 $35,000,000

DM 20,000,000

total Based on partial data - actual figure probably higher[26]

Prominent activists

In a letter from February 26, 1977 Adolf Berman mentions the following activists as especially meritorious:[30]

Postwar recognition

Żegota plaque, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel
Żegota plaque, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel

In 1963 Żegota was memorialised in Israel with the planting of a tree in the Avenue of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, with Władysław Bartoszewski present.

See also

Notes and references


  1. ^ Gunnar S. Paulsson (2002). Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940-1945. Yale University Press. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-300-09546-3.
  2. ^ a b c Yad Vashem Shoa Resource Center, Zegota
  3. ^ Władysław Bartoszewski: środowisko naturalne korzenie Michal Komar, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski Świat Ksia̜żki, page 238, 210
  4. ^ "The Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" | Polscy Sprawiedliwi". (POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews). Warsaw. Retrieved 22 June 2018. The Council to Aid Jews, Żegota, was the only state-sponsored organization in occupied Europe which was set up with the aim of saving Jews.
  5. ^ Golarz, Raymond J.; Golarz, Marion J. (25 April 2011). Sweet Land of Liberty. AuthorHouse. p. 95. ISBN 9781456746605. This was the only organization in German-occupied countries established specifically to save Jews.
  6. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). "Assistance to Jews". Poland's Holocaust. McFarland & Company. p. 118. ISBN 0-7864-0371-3.
  7. ^ Bartrop, Paul R.; Dickerman, Michael (15 September 2017). The Holocaust: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection [4 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 737. ISBN 9781440840845. Poland was the only country in Nazi-occupied Europe where such an organization, run jointly by Jews and non-Jews from a wide range of political movements, existed
  8. ^ a b Robert Alvis (2016). White Eagle, Black Madonna: One Thousand Years of the Polish Catholic Tradition. Oxford University Press. pp. 212, 214. ISBN 0823271730.
  9. ^ Andrzej Sławiński, Those who helped Polish Jews during WWII. Translated from Polish by Antoni Bohdanowicz. Article on the pages of the London Branch of the Polish Home Army Ex-Servicemen Association. Last accessed on March 14, 2008.
  10. ^ Żydzi w Polsce: dzieje i kultura : leksykon Jerzy Tomaszewski, Andrzej Żbikowski Wydawnictwo Cyklady, 2001, page 552
  11. ^ Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, volumes 3-4 Israel Gutman Macmillan Library Reference USA, page 1730
  12. ^ Kirk, Heather (2004). A Drop of Rain. Dundurn. ISBN 9781894917100.
  13. ^ Zagłada Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej: 1945-1947 - page 129 Aleksander Gella - 1998
  14. ^ "Żegota" in Kraków Established 75 Years Ago Mateusz Szczepaniak / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 14th March 2018 POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
  15. ^ Segel, Harold B. (1996). Stranger in Our Midst: Images of the Jew in Polish Literature. Cornell University Press. ISBN 080148104X.
  16. ^ "Death Penalty for Aiding Jews — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum". Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  17. ^ a b Winstone, Martin (2014). The Dark Heart of Hitler's Europe: Nazi rule in Poland under the General Government. London: Tauris. pp. 181–182. ISBN 978-1-78076-477-1.
  18. ^ Michman, Dan; Dreifuss, Havi; Silberklang, David (5 July 2018). "תגובת ההיסטוריונים של יד ושם להצהרה המשותפת של ממשלות פולין וישראל בנוגע לתיקון מיום 26 בינואר 2018 לחוק "המכון לזיכרון לאומי" של פולין" [Reply by the historians of Yad Vashem to the joint statement by the governments of Poland and Israel on the 26 January 2018 amendment to the law of the "Institute of National Remembrance" of Poland] (PDF) (Press release) (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. Haaretz. Retrieved 21 August 2018. [Some] Polish resistance fighters, that were willing to fight bravely and faithfully against the German conquerer, contributed on their end to a certain aspect of Nazi policy in occupied Poland to its broad success: the murder of Jews. These trends are also expressed in the words of Righteous Among the Nations and member of the Żegota organization Irena Sendler, that during the Second World War it was simpler to hid a tank under the carpet than shelter a Jewish child."
  19. ^ Richard C. Lukas, Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust University Press of Kentucky, 1989; 201 pp.; p. 13; also in Richard C. Lukas, The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles under German Occupation, 1939-1944, University Press of Kentucky, 1986; 300 pp.
  20. ^ Waldemar Grabowski, "Rada Pomocy Żydom »Żegota« w strukturach Polskiego Państwa Podziemnego" ("Żegota within the Structures of the Polish Underground State"), Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej (Bulletin of the Institute of National Remembrance), no. 11 (120), November 2010, IPN, pp 50-51.
  21. ^ Aleksander Gella, Zagłada Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej: 1945-1947 (The Demise of the Polish Second Republic: 1945–1947), 1998, p. 129.
  22. ^ a b ("Żegota Was Established in Kraków 75 Years Ago").
  23. ^ a b Stefan Korboński, Polacy, Żydzi i Holocaust (The Poles, the Jews, and the Holocaust), 1999, p. 58.
  24. ^ Marcin Urynowicz, “Zorganizowana i indywidualna pomoc Polaków dla ludności żydowskiej eksterminowanej przez okupanta niemieckiego w okresie drugiej wojny światowej” ("Poles' Organized and Individual Help to the Jewish Population Being Exterminated by the Occupying Germans during World War II"), in Andrzej Żbikowski, ed., Polacy i Żydzi pod okupacją niemiecką 1939–1945 (Poles and Jews under the German Occupation, 1939–1945), Warsaw, IPN, 2006, p. 225–26.
  25. ^ Holocaust: Responses to the persecution and mass murder of the Jews. Holocaust: critical concepts in historical studies. 5. book chapter by Antony Polonsky, edited by David Cesarani & Sarah Kavanaugh. London ; New York: Routledge. 2004. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-415-27509-5.CS1 maint: others (link)
  26. ^ a b c d Contested memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and its aftermath. Joshua D. Zimmerman (ed.), chapter by Shmuel Krakowski. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 2003. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-8135-3158-8.CS1 maint: others (link)
  27. ^ Kermish, Joseph. "The Activities of the Council for Aid to Jews ("Żegota") In Occupied Poland". Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  28. ^ a b c d e f Waldemar Grabowski, "Rada Pomocy Żydom »Żegota« w strukturach Polskiego Państwa Podziemnego" ("Żegota within the Structures of the Polish Underground State"), Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej (Bulletin of the Institute of National Remembrance), no. 11 (120), November 2010, IPN
  29. ^ Aleksander Gella, Zagłada Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej: 1945-1947 (The Demise of the Polish Second Republic: 1945–1947), 1998, p. 129
  30. ^ Jewish Resistance: Konrad Żegota Committee, Jewish Virtual Library


External links

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