Anniversaries & holidays

Anniversary commemorating the establishment of the Committee to Aid Jews

Zofia Kossak ubrana w białą koszulę i czarną marynarkę.
fot. Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich

The Committee to Aid Jews was established in Warsaw on 27 September 1942. It was the first organization of this type in occupied Poland, which initiated the story of the "Żegota" Council to Aid Jews. On the occasion of the anniversary of the establishment of the Committee, we present the story of this secret organization and the people who make it up.

"Zofia Kossak was extremely careless. She believed people," recalls Janusz Jabłoński in an interview for POLIN Museum, who as a 16-year-old collaborated with Kossak in the underground during the German occupation. She was a writer and social activist from the Catholic organization Front for Polish Rebirth (pol. Front Odrodzenia Polski), who – together with Wanda Krahelska-Filipowiczowa, an activist of the Democratic Party, and formerly a member of the legendary Fighting Organization of the Polish Socialist Party – founded the Committee to Aid Jews.

The organization was established with the consent and under the care of the Government Delegation for Poland (pol. Delegatura Rządu RP na Kraj), under the code name "Konrad Żegota" – probably after the name of one of the conspirators from the third part of Adam Mickiewicz’s "Dziady". The committee’s small group of activists struggled with financial and organizational problems. Soon, efforts were made to create a new organization – permanent, strong, endowed with adequate resources and based on broad social representation. It happened in December, when the Council to Aid Jews "Żegota" started its activity.

A key event in the establishment of the Committee was the publication of the appeal titled "Protest!" by Zofia Kossak, which was distributed on the streets of Warsaw on 11 August 1942. The appeal was a response to the mass deportations of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to the extermination camp in Treblinka by the Germans.

"The Appeal of Zofia Kossak is a founding text for Polish thinking about saving Jews," notes Tomasz Żukowski, researcher of the problems of public discourse in Poland. "There is an ongoing dispute about the Protest! .Jan Błoński wondered about this text that he considered ‘very pro-Jewish […] and at the same time… glaringly anti-Semitic."

For the anniversary of the establishment of the Committee to Aid Jews, POLIN Museum has published a study about the appeal written by Zofia Kossak, "Protest!". The author of the article is Prof. Tomasz Żukowski from the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Go to Polish Righteous website to see more on this subject.