A Discussion: What Happened to the Legacy of the Righteous?

Redakcja/Editorial staff; English translation - Andrew Rajcher, 9th September 2022
Marking the 80th anniversary of the founding of the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews and the 15th anniversary of the Polish Righteous website, POLIN Museum invites you to a series of discussions about the Polish Righteous. Topics will include who the Righteous were, what happened to their heritage and who, today, deserves that title. The second discussion will take place on 21st September and will look at how the presentation of the history of the Righteous has changed over the nearly 80 years since the end of World War II. Taking part in the discussion will be Anna Bikont, author of the book “Sendlerowa. In Hiding”, Prof. Michał Bilewicz and Prof. Karolina Wigura from Warsaw University.

“The Polish Righteous are leaving us, but their stories remain. POLIN Museum deserves great credit for teaching about them on, for example, the Internet, and about the attitudes of Polish society towards the Jews” – Anna Stupnicka-Bando, President of the Polish Association of the Righteous AMong the Nations. She was honoured with the title in 1984.

“POLIN Museum has been telling the stories of the Righteous for a long time and will continue to do so. We are happy that they are presented using modern media” – Vice-President of the Polish Association of the Righteous AMong the Nations. She was honoured with the title in 2002.

A Discussion Series Marking the 80th anniversary of the founding of the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews and the 15th anniversary of the Polish Righteous website

4th December 2022 will mark the 80th anniversary of the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews – a Polish-Jewish organisation established to save Jews during the Holocaust in German-occupied Poland. Its members' tasks included searching for hiding-places for Jews on the “Aryan side”, providing them with false identity documents or providing them with support. 

In 2022, we will also celebrate the 15th anniversary (November 2007) of the “Polish Rightous – Restoring Memory” project, an initiative of Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka and Ewa Wierzyńska, deputy directors of the then-established Museum of the History of Polish Jew. The project was initially run by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland.

A year later (November 2008), the project's achievements – interviews with witnesses to history, studies, photographs – began to appear on the new portal www.sprawiedliwi.org.pl. The project came under the patronage of the Polish President Lech Kaczyński, who began the procedure of honouring, with high state decorations, Polish men and women who had saved Jews. The ceremonies were occasionally accompanied by publications prepared using this project's resources.

In 2012, the portal, along with all its resources, was handed over to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which had been established by the Jewish Historical Institute, together with the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the City of Warsaw. Since that time, the Polish Righteous website has continued to be developed. Along with the Virtual Shtetl portal, it is one of the two most important internet projects run by POLIN. Through them, the Museum presents knowledge about the history of Polish Jews and Polish-Jewish relations. It also makes its digital collection available which includes studies, oral histories, films and educational material. 

For almost 15 years, we have presented the stories of the Polish Righteous, taking into account the complexity and diversity of attitudes of Poles towards the Holocaust. So far, we have published over 1,000 stories of help and numerous historical studies, presented in the context of Poland under German occupation. An important part of our website is the story of “Żegota”, established 80 years ago. 

Marking these two special anniversaries, we invite you to the POLIN Museum for a series of discussions about the Polish Righteous:

  • 23rd March (Wednesday), 7:30pm: The Polish Righteous from a Historical Perspective
  • 21st September (Wednesday), 7:30pm: The Legacy of the Righteous
  • 14th December (Wednesday), 7:30pm: Who, Today, are the Righteous?

Discussions will take place online – broadcast of POLIN Museum's Facebook page »

A preview of the second discussion: What happened to the Legacy of the Righteous? (21st September 2022, 7:30pm)

The discussion will include how the presentation of the history of the Righteous has changed over the nearly 80 years since the end of World War II. We will look at what purposes it has served over the years of communist Poland and after 1989, it was instrumentalised. We will consider how the history of the Righteous can served the educationof future generations.

Poles who saved Jews during World War II have, for years, been focal points of historical discussions in Poland. After the March online event “Who Were the Righteous?”, we will discuss how we talk about them. Why does a conversation about heroism turn into a conversation about Polish fault? How was the image of Poles saving Jews shaped, over the years, in public and historical debate? During the conversation, we will look for answers to the key questions, “How should we tell the story of the Rigyteous?”

Taking part in the discussion will be Anna Bikont, author of the book “Sendlerowa. In Hiding”, Prof. Michał Bilewicz and Prof. Karolina Wigura from Warsaw University. Discussion moderator will be Michał Okoński of “Tygodnik Powszechny”.


  • Michał Okoński – dziennikarz „Tygodnika Powszechnego”, gdzie pracuje od 1991 r. Zajmuje się stosunkami polsko-żydowskimi, wywiadem prasowym, a także piłką nożną. Autor książek Futbol jest okrutny i Światło bramki, a także wywiadu rzeki z s. Małgorzatą Chmielewską Wszystko, co uczyniliście....

  • Anna Bikont – dziennikarka, reporterka i pisarka, z wykształcenia psycholożka. Współtworzyła „Gazetę Wyborczą”, z którą związana jest do dzisiaj. Autorka kilkunastu książek, m.in. głośnej książki My z Jedwabnego, której przyznano Europejską Nagrodę Książkową, a wydanie amerykańskie zostało uhonorowane nagrodą dla najlepszej książki o tematyce Zagłady (National Jewish Book Award). W 2017 roku wydała biografię Sendlerowa. W ukryciu, za którą otrzymała m.in. Nagrodę im. Ryszarda Kapuścińskiego, a w 2019 biografię Jacka Kuronia Jacek (wraz z Heleną Łuczywo), wyróżnioną Nagroda Historyczną „Polityki”. W 2017 roku otrzymała doktorat honoris causa uniwersytetu w Göteborgu. W 2022 roku ukazała się jej najnowsza książka Cena. W poszukiwaniu żydowskich dzieci po wojnie.

  • Michał Bilewicz – profesor na Wydziale Psychologii Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, gdzie kieruje Centrum Badań nad Uprzedzeniami. Jego badania dotyczą problemów pojednania, mowy nienawiści, dehumanizacji, uprzedzeń i kolektywnych emocji moralnych. Jest współredaktorem numeru specjalnego czasopisma „Journal of Social Issues” (2013), poświęconego następstwom ludobójstwa, oraz książki The Psychology of Conspiracy (2015). Jest inicjatorem Polskiego Sondażu Uprzedzeń (w latach 2009, 2013, 2017, 2021), pierwszego ogólnopolskiego badania ksenofobii. Prowadził badania na temat wpływu historii Sprawiedliwych na przedstawicieli zwaśnionych narodów. Jest wiceprezesem Komitetu Psychologii Polskiej Akademii Nauk i Fundacji Forum Dialogu.

  • Karolina Wigura – doktor habilitowana, historyczka idei, socjolożka, dziennikarka. Studiowała na Uniwersytecie Warszawskim oraz Uniwersytecie Ludwiga Maximiliana w Monachium. Członkini Zarządu Fundacji Kultura Liberalna. Adiunktka na Wydziale Socjologii Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego. Stypendystka m.in. Instytutu Nauk o Człowieku w Wiedniu, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, German Marshall Fund. W latach 2016-2018 współdyrektorka studiów polskich w St. Antony’s College na Uniwersytecie Oksfordzkim. Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow w Akademii Roberta Boscha w Berlinie. Opublikowała książki: Wina narodów. Przebaczenie jako strategia prowadzenia polityki (2011), Wynalazek nowoczesnego serca. Filozoficzne źródła współczesnego myślenia o polityce (2019), The End of The Liberal Mind: Poland’s New Politics (2020). Laureatka nagrody im. Józefa Tischnera, nominowana do nagród im. Jerzego Turowicza i im. Tadeusza Kotarbińskiego. Laureatka Grand Press.

» See the event on Facebook: What Happened to the Legacy of the Righteous?