Members of "Żegota"
The Council was comprised of representatives of various political parties, both right-wing and left-wing, Polish and Jewish: the Polish Socialist Party - Freedom, Equality and Independence (PPS-WRN), the Workers' Party of Polish Socialists (RPPS), the Alliance of Democrats (SD), the People's Party (SL), the Front for the Revival of Poland (FOP), the International Jewish Labour Bund and the Jewish National Committee (ŻKN).
Below, in alphabetical order, are the biographies of selected Council members:
Ferdynand Arczyński, codename: "Marek" (1900-1979). Before the War, he was Chairman of the Śląsk Rebels Association and was employed by the Polish State Railway. During World War II, he served as district chairman of the Alliance of Democrats (SD) in the Krakowskie Province. In 1943, he became Secretary-General of the Alliance of Democrats. He was active in the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" between 1942 and 1945. He was a member of the Council's Executive Committee and was the organisation's treasurer.
Stanisław W. Dobrowolski remembers him as "(…) indefatigable in the service of Żegota, always supported by the brave 'łączniczki' (liaison personnel), dedicated to matters of life and death. (…) Arczyński, our 'Mareczek', as lively as quicksilver, knew absolutely everyone on the three councils of the RPŻ (Żegota) and, in addition, many of those in the sub-sections and those who were cared for. He risked his own life devilishly, but it appeared that he treated everything like some great sporting feat".
After the War, he became Deputy Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the Alliance of Democrats, In 1946-1947, he served as Secretary-General of the Alliance of Democrats Bloc, prior to the Legislative Sejm elections. Professionally, from 1950, he worked as a journalist. He was co-founder and , for many years, Chairman of the Polish Tourism Association. In 1965, he was honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Władysław Bartoszewski, codename: "Teofil" (1922-2015). A prisoner of Auschwitz, a soldier in the Home Army (AK), an employee of the Home Army High Command Bureau of Information and Propaganda and of the Jewish section of the Department of Internal Affairs of the Government Delegation for Poland. He was active in the Front for the Revival of Poland and, from December 1942, he was a member of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota". He fought in the Warsaw Uprising.
After the War, he was imprisoned and victimised. During the Third Republic, he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and, in his later years, he was an advisor to the Polish Prime Minister on international dialogue. He played a significant role in the Polish-German reconciliation process. Polish-Jewish relations were extremely important to him.
In 1963, on behalf of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota", he accepted the title of Righteous Among the Nations. On that occasion, a memorial tree was planted in Yad Vashem's Garden of the Righteous. He was also one of the first Poles to be honoured with that title. In 1991, he became an Honorary Citizen of the State of Israel.
Adolf Berman, codenames: "Borowski" and "Adam" (1906-1978). A psychologist, a Doctor of Philosophy, a social-political Zionist activist, a pioneer in career counselling in inter-war Poland. From 1939, he was Director of Polytechnical Counselling, while from 1940 he was Director of "Centos", the Centre of Societies for the Care of Orphans and Abandoned Children in the Warsaw Ghetto. He was a member of Poale Zion-Leftist. From October 1942, he was a member of the Executive of the Jewish National Committee and its representative to the authorities of the Polish underground. From January 1943 to July 1944, he served as Secretary of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota". His wife was the outstanding social activist Barbara Temkin (1907-1953). His brother was one of the most important Polish politicians during the early post-War years, Jakub Berman (1901-1984).
Regarding helping Jews, he wrote, "There will come a time when, in the great Honour Roll of Poles, it will be written that, in these terrible, contemptible times, they stretched out their hands to Jews and saved their lives".
From 1950, in Israel, he was a member of the Mapam Party and then, later, of the Israel Communist Party. He was active in the Polish-Israeli Friendship League. Among his memoirs, he authored Vos der gojrl hot mir bashert (What Fate Has Assigned Me), in Israel in 1980. His wife Basia Temkin-Berman also wrote her memoirs entitled Dziennik z podziemia (Underground Diary).
Władysława Laryssa Chomsowa, (1891-1966). A social and political activist, Chairperson of the Lwów Council to Aid Jews "Żegota".
About her, Zygmunt Chotiner wrote:
"I am deeply convinced that there are no words with which one can describe what she endeavoured to achieve and how she must have suffered in order to help Jews... She had a warm and noble heart. All of us who know her feel an immense appreciation for everything which she did for us, that she risked her own life to save ours".
Jews who she saved called her "the Angel of Lwów" and she spoke of them as her children and grandchildren.
In 1966, she was honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. She passed away in that same year.
Anna Dobrowolska, codename: "Michalska" (1889-1951). A teacher, a social activist. She belonged to the Alliance of Democrats which she represented on the Kraków Council to Aid Jews "Żegota". In her apartment in ul. Wielopole 6 in Kraków, as the organisation's treasurer, she maintained the Council's ledgers, collected the receipts and looked after the archives and the money. Dobrowolska also belonged to the legalisation cell which concerned itself with the production of false documents.
Stanisław W. Dobrowolski remembers her as, "a modest teacher or school principal, a lonely, taciturn person devoting her entire free time to the cause. She provided (…) her apartment on Wielopole for our numerous meetings. She spent entire evenings poring over the laborious bookkeeping so that, later, with the Audit Committee, she could verify those little pieces of paper - evidence of spending the public penny or receipts for funds received, initialed by distributors or by us, members of the RPŻ".
After the War, still with the Alliance of Democrats, she was also active in the Provincial League Against Racism. In 1984, she was posthumously honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Stanisław Wincenty Dobrowolski, codename: "Stanisław" and "Staniewski" (1915-1993). A lawyer, diplomat, politician and community activist connected to the Polish Socialist Party - Freedom, Equality, Independence. He was Chairman of the Kraków branch of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota".
Mieczysław and Maria Mariański remember him as a "pleasant, young man, so calm and level-headed that it was enough to enter his office on Jagiellońska Street in order to feel secure and safe. (…) He allowed the Council to use everything - his office, his various contacts and his untiring work, because "Żegota" was only a part of his underground activities".
In 1946, he co-founded the All-Poland League Against Racism - the ideological successor to "Żegota". He was a PPS member of the Legislative Sejm (1947-1952), Polish Ambassador to Denmark (1957-1963), a negotiator of the border arrangement between Poland and East Germany (1969-1970) and Polish Ambassador to Greece (1972-1974). He was a researcher at the Polish Academy of Sciences (1982-1984). In 1979, he was honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Leon Feiner (1886-1945). One of the most active members of the Bund, a lawyer who, before the War, often defended members of socialist organisations. During World War II, he was a member of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" and, from August 1944 until January 1945, was its Chairman.
Władysław Bartoszewski remembered Feiner thus: "Dr Leon Feiner had excellent contacts with the Home Army High Command, with the PPS-WRN and with the Socialist Left. He was the author of one of the most important reports by the Jewish underground to the government in London. Before the War, he was a well-known, prosperous lawyer in Kraków. He was imprisoned in Bereza due to being falsely accused of being a communist. Perhaps that was the reason for one of his codenames, during the occupation, being 'Berezowski'. He was doubtless a leftist. He was certainly not a communist. He had great communal experience, an immense intellect and a sense of humour. He looked like a country squire with his grey mop of hair and grey moustache - like a provincial noble who had come to the big city, similar to Michał Bałucki or Józef Bliziński from the world of literature".
He died in Lublin on 22nd February 1945 as the result of cancer. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery on Okopowa Street in Warsaw.
Szymon Gottesman, codename: "Józef Bogucki" (1886-?). A doctor of laws, a lawyer, a community and political activist and a Zionist. During World War II. he fled from Kraków to Warsaw, where he served on the Executive of the Jewish National Committee. During the final months of the War, he was Secretary of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota". Afer the War, he emigrated to Brazil (Rio de Janerio).
Working with the ŻKN had the overall character of helping Jews in hiding. He worked closely in this area with Daniel Guzik, managing one of the "wings" of the ŻKN which concentrated on groups under its care. He also took part in providing help to camps in the Provinces, particularly to the camp in Płaszów, in conjunction with the activities of RPŻ. During the Warsaw Uprising, he was in the central area of the city. He then found himself in Milanówek, where Ferdynand Arczyński and Mikołaj Feiner reactivated "Żegota". Due to A. Berman's absence, he was called upon to act as Secretary of "Żegota", a position he occupied until January 1945.
After the War, he was active in the Zionist Party. His publications included "Ichud". In November 1947, when he was already living in Brazil, he contacted the Central Committee of Polish Jews (CKŻP) regarding regaining property which was then occupied by Polish citizens of modest means.
Julian Grobelny, ps. „Trojan" (1893-1944). A left-wing independence and social activist, a participant in the Śląsk Uprising, the author of socialist and free-thinking press articles and a member of the Association of Free Thought. From January 1943 to February 1944, as representative of the Polish Socialist Party - Freedom, Equality, Independence, he chaired the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota". He was the first post-War District Administrator (Starost) of Mińsk Mazowiecki. He was decorated with the Śląsk Sash of Valour and Merit (1921), the Independence Medal (1937) and the title of Righteous Among the Nations (1987).
He remained in close contact with members of the Bund and with the Jewish Fighting Organisation (ŻOB), delivering explosives to them and instructing them in their production. He was severely affected by the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto. His wife recalls: "During the liquidation of the ghetto, we walked along the ghetto walls while the ghetto was being gassed and burned 'Trojan' cried. It was the first time that I'd seen him so broken. With every gunshot, he responded with 'Our people are defending themselves'". Walking along the ghetto walls had a practical purpose – to help those leaving through the city's sewer manholes, through which he had delivered plans to his Jewish collaborators.
On 10th October 1944, he was appointed by the Polish Committee of National Independence as the first post-War District Administrator (Starost) of Mińsk Mazowiecki. He performed that responsibility until his death. He was buried in the local military cemetery.
Maria Hochberg (Miriam Peleg), codename: "Mariańska" and "Ewa" (1913- 1996). A writer, journalist, author and editor of the children's supplement of "Nowy Dziennik". During the War, she used "Aryan " documents with the pre-War identity surname of "Maria Górska". She worked together with the Polish Socialist Party underground. In 1943, she joined the Kraków branch of the Coucil to Aid Jews "Żegota" as a representative of the Jewish community. She delivered false documents and financial support. Those whom she helped included the Libermann and Aleksandrowicz families, Izaak Birnbaum and Szymoni Zajdow, escapees from the Auschwitz camp. She also helped Michał Borowicz and Janina Hescheles, escapees from the Janowski camp in Lwów.
According to Stanisław W. Dobrowolski: "(…) As a fearless liaison, she accepted every dangerous function, often with her husband Mietek (who spent the last year of the War in Hungary), exposing himself to great danger, travelling as far as Lwów and to his home town, to Tarnów".
Between 1945 and 1948, she was manager of the Child Welfare Department of the Provincial Jewish Committee in Kraków. She worked together with the Kraków branch of the Central Jewish Historical Committee. In 1948, together with her husband Mieczysław Kurz (codename: "Piotrowski") and son Roman, she emigrated from Poland, first to France, and then, in 1949, to Israel, where she took the name of "Miriam Peleg".
Roman Jan Jabłonowski, codenames: "Jurkiewicz", "Gruszecki", "J. Janowski" and "Marian Kozłowski", (1886-1963). Socialist and communist activist and Doctor of Philosophy. From May to July 1944, he served as Chairman of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota".
During Worl War II, he became associated with the Union of Polish Syndicalists and with the PPS - Freedom, Equality, Independence. Following the arrest of Julian Grobelny, Chairman of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota", in May 1944 he was nominated by the PPS-WRN as the person to replace him in that position. He served in that position until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising.
After the War, he was not active in political life as the Communist elite did not trust him. However, he occupied a high position in the field of insurance (Secretary General of the Banking and Insurance Trade Union) and worked as a clerk for the Central Union of Co-operative Labour. In 1956, he was rehabilitated by the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party and was taken back into party circles.
He was buried in the Powązki Military Cemetery in Warsaw.
Jerzy Matus, codenames: "Bocheński", "Lech" and "Zagroda", ( 1910-1972). A lawyer and peasant activist. During the War, he was a member of the 6th Farmers Battalion. From 1943, he was active in the Kraków branch of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota", in which he represented the peasant movement. A legalisation cell was located in the Matus home.
Barbara Matus recalls: "My husband and his group were openly active in bringing help (to the Jews) around Kraków and, for that reason, I knew all about this activity. I personally helped him, mainly in the production of identification cards, certificates and work permits for Jews. More than once, I'd deliver the documents personally around Kraków".
In 1953, Matus was arrested for underground activity with the peasant movement and was sentenced to fifteen years gaol. As the result of an amnesty, he was released in 1956. At the end of 1956, he became legal counsel to the Regional Conservation and Building Renovation Work Co-operative "Grzegórzki" in Kraków. In 1982, Jerzy Matus was posthumously honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Ludwik Rostkowski (1894-1973). An ophthalmologist, an Associate Professor of the Łódż Medical Academy and, from October 1943, Chairperson of the Medical Department of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota".
Based upon her work with Rostowski, Helena Kozłowska described his activities in helping the Jewish populace:
"Dr Rostowki usually learned about Jews needing medical care from architectural engineer Emili Hiżowa ("Barbara"), who belonged to the leadership of "Żegota", as well as from architectural engineer Romuald Miller (both from the Alliance of Democrats) and from Mr Arciszewski (the brother of the well-known PPS activist). (…) Dr Rostkowski obtained the addresses of the people needing help together with a general description of the illness. With the aid of his son, he recruited appropriate medical specialists or nurses to carry out the treatment. (…) There were very many home-visits".
He died on 21st October 1973 in Warsaw. He was buried in the Powązki Cemetery. On 13th October 1997, he son Ludwik (codename: "Lutek") was honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Józefa Rysińska, codename: "Ziuta" (1922-1993). A member of the Polish Socialist Party, a liaison officer of the Kraków Council to Aid Jews "Żegota". She participated in the liberation of Janina Hescheles from the Janów camp in Lwów. She was arrested by the Germans in the autumn of 1943. She ended up in the camp in Płaszów and, from there, to camps in Pustków and Szebnie.
As Tadeusz Seweryn recalls: "The bravest (of the Council's liaisons) was Józefa Rysińska ('Ziutka'), who travelled to Lwów several times in order to help some prisoners to escape from the ruthlessness of the Janów camp and to bring them back to Kraków. She also travelled to Pustków (Heidelager) near Dębica and to Szebnie near Jasła in order to take prisoners financial support, medicines, false papers and to collect 'kites' (smuggled notes and letters) which she distributed to the addressees".
In 1979, she was honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Stefan Sendłak, codename: "Stefan" and "Kalinowski" (1889-1978). A social and political activist with socialist views, a participant in the fight for Polish independence, a member of the Polish Socialist Party and active in the defence of peasants and workers. For many years, he was employed in local government. He wrote articles for the worker and socialist press. He was the founder and chairman of the Zamojsko-Lubelski Committee to Aid Jews. From 1943, he managed the local branch of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota".
His broader activities in helping Jews began in the autumn of 1942, following the final liquidation of the Zamość ghetto and with the appearance, in Warsaw, of a few escapees. At that time, he established the Zamojść-Lublin Committee to Aid Jews. The number of similar committees grew rapidly - from 10 in the autumn of 1942 to 272 in the autumn of 1943. Thanks to his work with Ignacy Barski, he was invited to work with "Żegota", where he was chosen to chair the Local Department. He managed to make contact with Jews in Radom, Starachowice, Skarżysko-Kamienna, Kielce, Piotrków Trybunalski, Częstochowa and Białystok. People hiding in the country were also aided, for example in Hutków near Krasnobród.
During the Warsaw Uprising, he served as the deputy regional delegate of the Government in Region III (Śródmieście-Północ). After the War, he fought to continue being politically and socially active. In 1948, he was expelled from the PPS for opposing its union with the PPR. He then withdrew from active political life. He died without leaving any family. He was buried in Warsaw's northern community cemetery.
Irena Sendler, codename: "Jolanta" (1910-2008). Social activist, employee of the Social Welfare Department of the City of Warsaw and, from September 1943, manager of the Children's Department of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota".
Irena Sendler recalls:
"Everything had to be done subtly and cautiously, because the children were terrified and terribly missed their mum, dad, grandmother and their whole family. It was also necessary to constantly tell them that "You are not Rachel, but Zosia" and that "You are called differently to how you were called until now". For us, the movement of the children was very difficult, but for the children it was simply terrifying".
She independently organised a network of twenty social workers who, firstly, helped and then, later, led Jewish children out of the ghetto and placed them on the "Aryan side" with families, orphanages and convents.
In 1965, she was honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. In 1983, she planted a tree in Yad Vashem's Garden of the Righteous. On 12th May 2008, she died at the age of 98.
Tadeusz Seweryn, codenames" "Boryna","Białowąs" and "Socha" (1894-1975). An ethnographer, a painter and a graphic artist. He was connected with the Stronnictwo Ludowy (People's Party). He was active in the Związek Walki Zbrojnej (Union of Armed Struggle). In February 1941, he hid under the name of "Bronisław Kozłowski". In 1943, he headed the regional Directorate of Civil Resistance (KOS). He joined the Directorate of Underground Resistance (KWP) and was responsible for civil resistance in the Kraków region. In March 1943, he joined the board of "Żegota" in Kraków and sat on the Audit Committee. As part of his duties, he organised the provision of documents and financial resources, fought against informers and passed on information, overseas, about Jews being persecuted.
Stanisław W. Dobrowolski recalled:
"(…) to me, above all else, he was a man of unprecedented courage, immense righteousness and prepared to provide help to those most endangered - to us, Polish Jews. "Socha" was always ready to overcome all obstacles along the road to provide help, to obtain the necessary resources and to also ruthlessly pursue and punish those had soiled the good name of Poles by subordinating to the Nazis or by taking action independently in the extermination of our Jewish compatriots".
After the War, he was active academically. Until 1965, he served as Director of the Museum of Ethnography. In 1982, he was posthumously honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Jadwiga Strzałecka, nee Mańkowska, codename: "Niunia" (1903-1947). An educator from a landowning family. During the War, in Warsaw, she ran a home for war orphans, for the Social Welfare Council, at ul. Morsztyńska 45. After the fall of the Warsaw Uprising, Strzałecka and the children under her care managed to reach Poronin, where an institution was operating thanks to the support of the Kraków "Żegota". Amongst the forty children were ten Jewish children and two of the carers from the orphanage were also Jewish. All survived the War.
On 30th Seoptember 1978, Janka Altman (Janina Hescheles), in a letter to Marek Arczyński, wrote:
"From the first moment of arrival at that home in Poronin and encountering its manager, Jadwiga Strzałecka, I was able to regain my status as a young girl. I was surrounded by goodness, love and concern. It should be stressed that all the children in that home were treated with this same, warm relationaship".
After the War, Jadwiga Strzałecka left for Paris. In 1973, together with her husband, Janusz Strzałecki (1902-1983), a professor of art and a worker with Kraków "Żegota", she was honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Władysław Wójcik, codenames: "Czerski", „Żegociński", „Żegota" (1917-1974). Active in the Polish Socialist Party, Secretary of the Kraków Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" and was a member of the Civil Community Court (Cywilny Sąd Społeczny).
Stanisław W. Dobrowolski recalls:
"He was a man who placed himself in immense personal danger with his every action due to betrayal or in not being able to provide the awaited help. He was a man of few words, seemingly slow and unfortunately unpunctual. He was a man who never disappointed and who always found a practical solution".
After the War, he became First Secretary of the Municipal and Provincial Committee of the PPS in Kraków. He was elected to the State National Council (Krajowa Rada Narodowa). In 1978, together with his wife Wanda (nee Janowska), he was honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
English translation: Andrew Rajcher
We present the stories of Council members, its structure, its activity methods,
memorials in Poland and Israel, as well as memorabilia from POLIN Museum collection.
Marek Arczyński, Wiesław Balcerak, Kryptonim „Żegota”. Z dziejów pomocy Żydom w Polsce 1939-1945, Warszawa 1979.
Anna Bikont, Sendlerowa. W ukryciu, Warszawa 2017.
Teresa Prekerowa, Konspiracyjna Rada Pomocy Żydom w Warszawie 1942-1945, Warszawa 1982.
Gunnar S. Paulsson, Utajone miasto. Żydzi po aryjskiej stronie Warszawy (1940-1945), Kraków 2007.
Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej. Polacy z pomocą Żydom 1939-1945, oprac. W. Bartoszewski, Z. Lewinówna, Warszawa 2007.
„Żegota". Rada Pomocy Żydom 1942-1945. Wybór dokumentów, oprac. A. K. Kunert, Warszawa 2002.
„Żegota. Dokumenty 1942-1945", oprac. M. Olczak, Warszawa 2017.