Those Cared for by "Żegota"
The Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" helped escapees from ghettoes, from transports heading to extermination centre, as well as those left alive after German liquidation operations between July 1942 and November 1943. Those helped included both adults and children.
After the liquidation of the ghetto, the number of people who found themselves on the "Aryan side" is estimated at 180,000-250,000. The Council conducted diverse activities. It organised places of refuge, jobs, false papers and provided financial support. It is not possible to determine exactly how many Jews were saved. It is also impossible to determine how many rescue operations turned out to be effective. The legalisation department provided 50,000 false documents. At the beginning of 1943, 300 individuals had been provided with financial support. By the end of that year, the number had grown to 2,000. By the summer of 1944, it was around 4,000.
A signifciant group for whom rescue operations were undertken were children. The department dedicated to them was headed by Irena Sendler. In her book, Sendlerowa. W ukryciu (Sendler. In Hiding) Anna Bikont wrote:
"Few of the children whom she helped had the chance to meet her personally. They hardly ever had any direct contact with her or even knew of her existence".
The children had direct contact with her liaison personnel. Their activities were shrouded in the tightest secrecy. The majority of the children were placed into orphanages, especially those run by orders of nuns. It is their stories which, today, are the most well-known – among them are Teresa Koerner, Katarzyna Meloch and Elżbieta Ficowska.
There is a divergence in the stories as told by the rescuers and by those whom they rescued. Much of this is due to the passage of time -after many years, returning to those difficult wartime memories. Sometimes, it is only then when their experiences have been reconstructed. Despite that, they remain invaluable records of the witnesses to history.
In 1963, in the pages of the Jewish Historical Institute's "Bulletin", Sendler recalled:
"It was recommended to me that I go to the home of 'Trojan', outside of Warsaw, dt Cegłów, where he had a small house with a garden. I wanted to place a little girl who had miraculously avoided death during the liquidation of the nearby ghetto where her entire family had been murdered".
The fate of Teresa Korner, the daughter of Julian Grobelny's friend, is ful of twists. What is certain is that, thanks to Żegota”, she lived privately with individuals and in the orphanage in Helenów.
After ten year old Katarzyna Meloch was extracted from the Warsaw ghetto on a hot day in August 1942, she was taken to the apartment of Jadwiga Deneka iin Warsaw suburb of Kole. "Mrs Wisia", Sendler's liaison, ran "emergency accomodation for fugities". The girl found her maternal grandmother there.
In her memoirs, she wrote this about Deneka:
"At the time, neither my grandmother nor I had 'Aryan papers'. Any inspection in Kole could have not only resulted in both our deaths, but could have also meant the death penalty for the owner of the apartment and perhaps for all the residents in the building".
As "Irena Dąbrowska", through the Rev. Boduen children's emergency shelter, she ended up in a closed convent in the Zamość region.
Elżbieta Ficowska, when rescued, was too young to be aware of what was happening. As a six-month-old child, she was taken out of the Warsaw ghetto. She was placed into the home of Stanisława Bussold who, for many others, provided a stop along the road to go into hiding. She cared for the little girl as though she was her own daughter. "This is both my dowry and my birth certificate", said Elżbieta Ficowska about the teaspoon which her family equipped her with in the ghetto. The silver spoon is engraved with her name, Elżunia, and her dated of birth, 5.01.1942.
Karolina Dzięciołowska, December 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.