A monument has been unveiled in Warsaw to honor those Poles who risked their lives during World War II by forming a secret organization to save Jews from the Nazis.
The obelisk unveiled Wednesday honored Zegota, an organization sponsored by the London-based Polish government in exile during World War II to help Jews in Poland.
The monument stands near the larger Ghetto Heroes Monument, which pays homage to the hundreds of thousands of Warsaw Jews who died during the war and to those who died during the failed ghetto uprising in 1943.
Zegota, the Relief Council for Jews, was active from Sept. 27, 1942, in Warsaw, Krakow and other cities, and was the “only such government-funded institution in German-occupied Europe,” said Stanislaw Krajewski, American Jewish Committee consultant in Warsaw.
“In Warsaw alone, 2,400 children were placed in families and Catholic or secular institutions,” he said in a telephone interview.
During the ecumenical dedication ceremony, prayers were offered by Warsaw Chief Rabbi Menachem Joskowicz and by Bishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish Episcopate’s Commission for Dialogue with the Jews.
Speakers included Poland’s Foreign minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski – on of the founders of Zegota – who stressed that the creation of the group had been a common activity of Christians and Jews helping the most vulnerable.
Bartoszewski is one of the nearly 5,000 Poles honored as Righteous Gentiles by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
U.S. and Israeli ambassadors to Poland also spoke at the ceremonies, as did Arnold Mostowicz, head of the Jewish Veterans Organization, who said Jews are grateful to the Christians who helped them during the Holocaust.
Krajewski said it was significant that Bartoszewski had stressed that Zegota members were both Christian and Jewish.
“In Poland, few people realize that there existed Jewish members of Zegota,” he said.
The monument, a modest black stone with inscriptions in Polish, Hebrew and English, was commissioned by a group of Americans, mostly Polish Americans, and was designed by Warsaw artists Hanna Szamlenberg and Marek Moderau.