The Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" Established 75 Years Ago

Mateusz Szczepaniak, 4th December 2017
The 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" was commemorated on 4th December 2017 at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. During this year's annual education event, Elżbieta Ficowska told young people the story of her rescue from the Holocaust. In addition, unique items relating to "Żegota", from the collections of POLIN Museum and from the National Ossoliński Institute in Wrocław, have been added to our core exhibition .

The Council's aim was set out in a letter to Government Delegation for Poland:

"The Council's task is to provide help to Jews who are the victims of the invader's extermination operations. That help is to save them from death, to legalise them, provide them with accomodation, provide them with material benefits where required, seek paid employment so that they can support themselves and to administer and distribute funds received".

The Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" was established on 4th December 1942. Operating in secret, it was the only state-sponsored organisation in occupied Europe which was set up with the aim of saving Jews. It continued the work of the Provisional Committee to Aid Jews which was established on 27th September 1942, through the Government Delegation by Zofia Kossak and Wanda Krahelska-Filipowiczowa. Help provided by "Żegota" largely comprised financial support, organising hiding places and providing false documents. Both adults and children found themselves in its care.

Władysław Bartoszewski wrote:

"It was the only organisation, within the underground against the Germans, in which Zionists, Bundists, Catholics, Polish Democrats and Peasants sat aroundthe same table - Jews and Poles".

Meeting with a Holocaust Survivor

Every year, on the anniversary of the establishment of "Żegota", POLIN Museum hosts an educational event aimed at young people. In the years 2012-2014, guest of honour at these events was "Żegota" member, the late Władysław Bartoszewski. From 2015, the young people have been meeting with Holocaust Survivor Elżbieta Ficowska. Inside the box in which she was carried out of the ghetto was placed a silver teaspoon, engraved with her name and date of birth. A replica of this most valuable item can be found in the Museum's collection.

This year's event was preceded with a lecture by historian Dr. Michał Trębacz on the establishment and activities of "Żegota" and by the screening of Łyżeczka życia (The Teaspoon of Life), directed by Michał Nekanda-Trepka, a film telling the story of Elżbieta Ficowska's rescue. There was also a recitation of Jerzy Ficowski's poem Twoje matki obie (Both Your Mothers). In conclusion, event participants laid flowers at the "Żegota" monument located near the entrance to the Museum and the Ghetto Heroes Monument.

The event, for almost five hundred students, was organised by POLIN Museum's "Polish Righteous – Recalling Forgotten History" project in conjunction with POLIN Museum's Education Centre. View a video of the event on Facebook.

The Story of "Żegota" in POLIN Museum 

To mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of "Żegota", our website has had new articles added to it concerning the establishment of the Council, its members and structure, its activities, its remembrance in Poland and Israel as well as memorabilia from the collection of POLIN Museum. 

In addition, from 4th December, the Museum's core exhibition will have unique items added to it regarding the Council – the so-called "Żegota" Receipts, the coded receipts for the acceptance of money for Jews in hiding. They come from the National Ossoliński Insitute in Wrocław. On display will also be the fake birth certificate and ID card of Leon Feiner, one of the Council's leaders, which were donated to POLIN Museum's collection several years ago by the late Władysław Bartoszewski.

Read the Story of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota"

We present the story of the Council's members, its structure, its activity mechanisms,
its remembrance in Poland and Israel as well as memorabilia from the collection of POLIN Museum.