Historical Background

Starving children in the Warsaw ghetto Starving children in the Warsaw ghetto

Zegota, the Council to Aid the Jews, operated from late fall 1942 until the liberation of Poland. It originated as the Provisional Committee for Aid to Jews, initiated by writer Zofia Kossak-Szczucka (honored as Righteous Among the Nations), who had been horrified by the massive deportations of the Jews of Zegota to Treblinka in the summer of 1942. Zegota was a joint organization of Jews and non-Jews from different political orientations, united by the common cause of saving Jews. By the time the Council was established, most of Poland's Jews had been killed, but the organization's activists, at enormous personal risk, managed to help several thousand Jews, especially children. Thousands of Jewish children were placed in homes, convents and orphanages; the organization arranged for false papers and hiding places; and provided food, medicine and financial aid to the hiding people. The organization was funded by the Polish government in Exile and Jewish organizations, but suffered from chronic shortage of funds. Several members of Zegota were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, and a tree was planted at Yad Vashem in honor of the Council.