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Żegota Council to Aid Jews
PredecessorProvisional Committee to Aid Jews
Formation27 September 1942; 80 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] (listen), 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] Żegota was the successor institution to the Provisional Committee to Aid Jews and was established specifically to save Jews.[4][5] Poland was the only country in German-occupied Europe where such a government-established and -supported underground organization existed.[6][7][8][9]

Estimates of the number of Jews that Żegota provided aid to, and eventually saved, range from several thousands to tens of thousands.[8][10]

Operatives of Żegota worked in extreme circumstances – under threat of death by the Nazi forces.[8]


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
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").[8] 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 4 December 1942.[2] One of the co-founders of Żegota was Henryk Woliński of the Home Army (AK) who helped integrate it with the Polish Underground State.[11] Woliński is also credited with developing the idea for this organization.[8]

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.[8] 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.[12] The right-wing National Party (Stronnictwo Narodowe) refused to take part in the organization.[citation needed]


Żegota had specialized departments for issues such as clothing, children welfare, medical care, housing and other relevant issues.[8] It had around one hundred cells that provided food, medical care, money, and false identification documents to thousands of Polish Jews hiding in the "Aryan" side of the German occupation zone.[8] Creation and distribution of false documents has been described as one of the organization's major tasks, and it is estimated to have produced up to a hundred sets of false identities for Jewish refugees.[8] Another estimate credits Żegota with forging about 50,000 documents such as marriage certificates, baptismal records, death certificates and employment cards to help Jews pass off as Christians.[13] In forging documents, Żegota cooperated with the Home Army, which often provided facilities for forging German identification papers.[14][15]

The organization headquarters was located in Warsaw at 24 Żurawia Street [pl].[8] Żegota was active chiefly in Warsaw,[citation needed] but it also provided money, food, and medicines for prisoners in several forced-labor camps, as well as to refugees in Kraków, Wilno (Vilnius), and Lwów (L'viv).[8] Żegota's activities overlapped to a considerable extent with those of the other major organizations dedicated to helping Jews in Poland – namely 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's children's section in Warsaw, headed by a Polish social worker Irena Sendler, cared for 2,500 Jewish children. Many were placed with foster families, in public orphanages, church orphanages, and convents.[8]

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.[16][17]

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.[10] Czesław Łuczak estimates the number of aid recipients at about 30,000.[10] Paul R. Bartrop estimated that Żegota helped to save about 4,000 Jews and provided assistance to about 25,000 in total.[8]


Under the German occupation, hiding or assisting Jewish refugees was punishable by death.[8][18][19] 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.[20] Irena Sendler is quoted as saying "during [the war] it was simpler to hide a tank under the carpet than shelter a Jewish child."[21]

According to Richard C. Lukas, "The number of Poles who perished at the hands of the Germans for aiding Jews" is difficult to establish, with estimates ranging from several thousand to as high as fifty thousand.[22] Paul R. Bartrop estimated that about 20,000 Żegota operatives were killed by the Nazis, and thousands of others were arrested and imprisoned.[8]

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.[23]

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 zlotys to zl 338,000 in May 1944, and to zl 1,000,000 by war's end. The Polish Government's overall financial contribution to Żegota and Jewish organizations came to zl 37,400,000, US$1,000,000, and SFr 200,000 (see financial details below).[24][25][26] 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.[27]

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 Władysław 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."[28] 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.[20] 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."[29]

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.[30]

It has been estimated that the cost of saving one Jewish life was around 6,000–15,000 Polish zloties.[8]

Funds allocated by the Government Delegation for Poland[25][26][29][31][32]
Funds allocated to Żegota
Date Sum Type Notes
May 1943 – Feb. 1944 6,250,000 zł total [31]
Jan. 1943 – May 1944 11,250,000 zł total According to Witold Bieńkowski[31]
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[31]
Nov. 1944 – Dec. 1944 $32,000 n/a [31]
March 1945 – April 1945 $65,000 n/a [31]
By Sept. 1945 1,000,000 zł monthly
1939–1945 $250,000 total Sum of all funds allocated to Żegota expressed in USD[29]
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[29]

Prominent activists

In a letter from 26 February 1977 Adolf Berman mentions the following activists as especially meritorious:[33]

Postwar recognition

Żegota plaque, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel

In 1963 Żegota was commemorated in Israel with the planting of a tree in the Avenue of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, with Władysław Bartoszewski present.[34] In 1995 a monument to the organization was unveiled in Warsaw.[35] Another monument was unveiled in 2009 in the Survivors' Park in Łódź.[36][37] Żegota is also commemorated in plaques at places of its regional offices in Warsaw and Kraków.[38] In 2009 a commemorative series of coins was issued by the National Bank of Poland.[38]

See also

Notes and references


  1. ^ Gunnar S. Paulsson (2002). Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940–1945. Yale University Press. p. xviii. 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". sprawiedliwi.org.pl (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. ^ Pogonowski, Iwo (1 September 1997). Jews in Poland: A Documentary History. Hippocrene Books. ISBN 9780781806046.
  7. ^ Winstone, Martin (30 October 2014). Dark Heart of Hitler's Europe: Nazi Rule in Poland under the General Government. I.B.Tauris. p. 181. ISBN 9780857735003. Żegota was the only organization of its kind in Europe
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Bartrop, Paul R. (15 September 2017). Bartrop, Paul R.; Dickerman, Michael (eds.). The Holocaust: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection [4 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 737–738. 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... Żegota was a truly unique phenomenon within the horror of the Holocaust
  9. ^ "The History of "Żegota" | Polscy Sprawiedliwi". sprawiedliwi.org.pl (POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews). 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2018. By the spring of 1943, the Council had branches in Kraków, Lwów, and the Lublin area. In all of occupied Europe, it was the only institution officially established and supported by a government, with the aim of saving Jews.
  10. ^ a b c Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). "Assistance to Jews". Poland's Holocaust. McFarland & Company. p. 118. ISBN 0-7864-0371-3.
  11. ^ Marek Ney-Krwawicz (1999). Armia Krajowa: szkic historyczny. Wydawn. Ars Print Production. p. 88. ISBN 9788387224172. Kierujący referatem żydowskim Henryk Woliński był też współinicjatorem utworzenia w 1942 r. Rady Pomocy Żydom „Żegota
  12. ^ Robert Alvis (2016). White Eagle, Black Madonna: One Thousand Years of the Polish Catholic Tradition. Oxford University Press. pp. 212, 214. ISBN 978-0823271733.
  13. ^ Kirk, Heather (2004). A Drop of Rain. Dundurn. p. 117. ISBN 9781894917100.
  14. ^ Żydzi w Polsce: dzieje i kultura : leksykon Jerzy Tomaszewski, Andrzej Żbikowski Wydawnictwo Cyklady, 2001, page 552
  15. ^ Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, volumes 3–4 Israel Gutman Macmillan Library Reference USA, page 1730
  16. ^ Zagłada Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej: 1945–1947 – page 129 Aleksander Gella – 1998
  17. ^ https://sprawiedliwi.org.pl/pl/aktualnosci/75-lat-temu-powstala-krakowska-zegota "Żegota" in Kraków Established 75 Years Ago Mateusz Szczepaniak / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 14 March 2018 POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
  18. ^ Segel, Harold B. (1996). Stranger in Our Midst: Images of the Jew in Polish Literature. Cornell University Press. ISBN 080148104X.
  19. ^ "Death Penalty for Aiding Jews — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum". www.ushmm.org. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ 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] (Press release) (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Yad Vashem. Retrieved 19 July 2020. [Some] Polish resistance fighters, that were willing to fight bravely and faithfully against the German conqueror, 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."
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Aleksander Gella, Zagłada Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej: 1945–1947 (The Demise of the Polish Second Republic: 1945–1947), 1998, p. 129.
  25. ^ a b https://sprawiedliwi.org.pl/pl/aktualnosci/75-lat-temu-powstala-krakowska-zegota ("Żegota Was Established in Kraków 75 Years Ago").
  26. ^ a b Stefan Korboński, Polacy, Żydzi i Holocaust (The Poles, the Jews, and the Holocaust), 1999, p. 58.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ Holocaust: Responses to the persecution and mass murder of the Jews. Holocaust: critical concepts in historical studies. Vol. 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.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  29. ^ 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.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  30. ^ Kermish, Joseph. "The Activities of the Council for Aid to Jews ("Żegota") In Occupied Poland". www.yadvashem.org. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  31. ^ 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
  32. ^ Aleksander Gella, Zagłada Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej: 1945–1947 (The Demise of the Polish Second Republic: 1945–1947), 1998, p. 129
  33. ^ "The Żegota". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 9 September 2022.
  34. ^ Andrzej Krzysztof Kunert (2002). "Żegota": The Council for Aid to Jews 1942–1945 : Selected Documents : Preceded by an Interview with Władysław Bartoszewski by Andrzej Friszke. Rada Ochrony Pamięci Walk i Męczeństwa. p. 155.
  35. ^ "17th Anniversary of the "Żegota" Monument Unveiling | Polscy Sprawiedliwi". sprawiedliwi.org.pl. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  36. ^ "W Łodzi uczczono pamięć Polaków ratujących Żydów". dzieje.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  37. ^ "W Łodzi uczczono pamięć Polaków ratujących Żydów". www.gazetaprawna.pl. 24 March 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  38. ^ a b "Upamiętnienia "Żegoty" | Polscy Sprawiedliwi". sprawiedliwi.org.pl. Retrieved 27 July 2020.


External links