You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

December 4: Zegota and the Jews of Warsaw

Lawrence Bush
December 4, 2016
Żegota, the Council to Aid Jews, was established in Warsaw on this date in 1942 to extend the work of the Provisional Committee to Aid Jews, which had been founded on September 27 by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz. The former was a conservative Catholic writer, a nationalist, the wife of a former Polish ambassador to the U.S., and a resistance fighter who would survive internment in Auschwitz. “[B]efore the war [she] was opposed to most Jewish groups and as a consequence was considered anti-Semitic,” according to Joyce Jensen of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. Her cofounder was a socialist Catholic activist, editor of an art magazine, who had been part of an assassination attempt on the Russian governor-general of Warsaw in 1906. Historians of the Holocaust estimate that about 50,000 Polish Jews, half of those who survived by hiding, were aided in some way by Żegota’s hundred membership cells, which were concentrated in Warsaw but also operated in Krakow, Vilna, and Lvov. It was the only underground wartime organization that was “run jointly by Jews and non-Jews from a wide range of political movements,” writes Jensen, “and the only one, despite the arrests of some of its members, that was able to operate for a considerable length of time and to extend help to Jews in so many ways.” “England is silent, so is America, even the influential international Jewry, so sensitive in its reaction to any transgression against its people, is silent. Poland is silent... Dying Jews are surrounded only by a host of Pilates washing their hands in innocence.” --Zofia Kossak-Szczucka

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.