Mechanisms of "Żegota"
A dozen or so members of the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" managed top-secret aid operations which were provided by political organisations, by communities and by individuals. Those involved used codenames. In the main, they did not know each other, as such, forming an underground network of contacts .
As Władysław Bartoszewski recalled:
"Not everyone who helped the Council knew that they were helping Jews. Regarding this matter, let us be accurate and objective. It was easier to find apartments to store boxes of weapons than for one Jew, even though one meant death and the other meant death also".
"Żegota" organised places of shelter, jobs, false documents and provided material support, mainly financial. It is estimated that the Council provided around fifty thousand false documents, among them being baptism certificates issued by priests.
Among the numerous groups under the care of "Żegota" were children. The Council continued the care that was provided to them by the Social Welfare Department of the City of Warsaw, the Central Welfare Council and other community aid organisations. It looked after children who had been led out of the ghetto, placing them into orphanages, into convents or with foster families. Carers usually received resources to support the children. Monthly, this was 400-700 zł per person. At the beginning of 1943, three hundred people were receiving support, while by the end of that year, that number had grown to two thousand. In the summer of 1944, the number was around four thousand.
Manager of the Children's Department, Irena Sendler said:
"Help from 'Żegota' was minimal, but it was systematic. The amounts that those under our care received was insufficient for their ongoing situation in hiding and was not in proportion to the constantly rising prices. […] a kilogram of pork fat cost four thousand złoty. But, in my direct contacts with those in hiding, I often heard that our help gave them a spark of hope in their tragic situation".
Through "Żegota", some help went to individuals under the care of other organisations, among them being the Polish Workers Party and the Union of Polish Syndicalists.
In addition to its aid activities, the Council endeavoured to influence the attitudes of the Polish community towards Jews. It distributed leaflets and bulletins. It presented the situation of Jews in the underground press and denounced the blackmailers of those in hiding. It reported to the Polish Government-in-Exile and promoted the need for military intervention by the Allies. The operations of "Żegota” were subsidised by the Government Delegation for Poland, through the Delegation's Department of Jewish Affairs and Department of Internal Affairs. The resources amounted to just a few percent of the budget allocated for social welfare.
"Żegota" member Tadeusz Rek recalls:
"Help from the Delegation was in the form of outstandingly insufficient subsidies. We objected, but usually without any success".
Overseas Jewish organisations also provided funds through Jewish groups in occupied Poland. Private individuals also made contributions. The Council's funds were sufficient for providing care for small groups of those who were in need of it.
Karolina Dzięciołowska, grudzień 2017 / 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.