Have you heard of Konrad Zegota, responsible for saving thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust? Not a who?, but a what?, Konrad Zegota was the code name for The Council for Aid to the Jews. It was generally referred to simply as Zegota.
Created in 1942, Zegota was brought into existence through the efforts of two women, Wanda Krahelska-Filipowic and Zofia Kossak-Szczucka. Activists before the war, these women came from opposite sides of the political spectrum. Krahelska-Filipowicz was a socialist. Kossak-Szczucka was a conservative nationalist who, prior to the war, would have been considered an anti-Semite. In the summer of 1942, Kossak published “Protest,” a pamphlet exhorting Poles to assist the Jews, recognizing that the murderous plans of the Germans were beyond immoral.
Zegota was a unique organization in that it was, in essence, a collaboration of organizations, or more accurately, a collaboration of key players from different Polish underground organizations. Members of the Catholic Front for Reborn Poland, Socialists, Peasants Party, and even the Home Army (the military arm of the Polish government in exile) all played significant roles in the Zegota organization. Almost all of these members of Zegota were already privately assisting Jews, either financially or by taking Jews into hiding into their own homes.
Another important and unique factor about the Zegota organization was that it incorporated Jewish organizations as well. Two important Jewish members, Dr. Adolf Berman (of the Zionists) and Leon Feiner (of the Bund), deliberately escaped the Warsaw ghetto to create contacts with the non-Jewish resistance.
Zegota was not, unfortunately, able to move large numbers of Jews out of the country. Zegota, however, was instrumental in providing funds, supplies, forged papers and medical aid to Jews in hiding.
Zegota was recognized and honored by Yad Vashem in the mid-1960s.
Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.
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