Content posted August 25, 2012

Notable Jewish Rescue Organizations

 


Aliyah Bet (Organization for Illegal Immigration, also known as “Mossad le Aliyah Bet,” Institute of “B” Immigration), Haganah (Underground Jewish Army)

The Aliyah Bet (Organization for Illegal Immigration), founded in 1934, was one of the principal organizations for organizing the transport of Jewish refugees from German occupied territories to Palestine between 1937 and 1942, during the British Mandate.  This organization was created jointly by the Jewish Trade Union Federation, the Histadrut, and the Haganah, a Jewish underground defense organization. 

Aliyah Bet chose Vienna as its central location because of access to transportation resources and the Danube River.

The Aliyah Bet arranged for papers, documents, funding, and ship’s transportation for tens of thousands of Jews.  After the annexation of Austria in 1938, the Aliyah Bet became larger and more organized.  Aliyah Bet included groups that evolved into the Perl Transport, or Af-Al-Pi.  They included the Maccabi ha-Tsa’ir and Agudat Israel.

Some of the prominent members were Shaul Avigur (Meirov), Moshe Averbuch-Agami and Berthold Storfer, in Vienna, Austria, Dr. Baruch Confino, in Bulgaria, Pino Ginzburg and Yehuda Braginsky, in Berlin, and Joseph Barpal and Ruth Klüger-Aliav in Romania.  Between 1934 and 1941, 18,176 Jews illegally immigrated to Palestine.  Between January 1938 and August 1939, an additional 17,240 Jews immigrated.  (See Mossad Aliyah Bet chart for individual names.)

Aliyah Bet helped Jews escape from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia and other countries.

The illegal immigration operations were vehemently opposed by the British government, especially after the publication of the White Paper, which limited immigration to 75,000 refugees during a period of five years.  In addition, the Arabs were against mass immigration to Palestine and lobbied the British government to prevent this.

Even the Yishuv initially opposed the Aliyah Bet illegal immigrations, as they jeopardized its tenuous diplomat relations with Great Britain.  Yishuv leaders, including Ben Gurion, felt it would jeopardize future statehood for the Jewish people.

Due to the shipping shortages and limited funds, Aliyah Bet was only able to procure marginally seaworthy vessels to transport Jews.  A number of ships sunk, with considerable loss of Jewish life.

The organization of illegal immigration was extremely difficult and dangerous both for the organizers and for the rescued.

The Aliyah Bet was supported in part by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS), and other Jewish rescue and relief agencies throughout the war.

Ironically, the Gestapo supported the Aliyah Bet and saw it as a means of facilitating the ridding of Jews of Central Europe.  Adolph Eichmann set up immigration offices in Berlin, Austria and Czechoslovakia as a means of forcing Jews out.  A number of Jews were released from concentration camps when they received proof that they had purchased a ship’s ticket on one of the Aliyah Bet’s transports.

 



Amelot Committee (La Amelot, Rue Amelot)

Amelot was a Jewish rescue organization that was established in Paris in June 1940.  It was named after the street where its headquarters was located, Rue Amelot.  After the German occupation of Paris, several Jewish organizations coordinated their activities under the leadership of Leo Glaeser, Yehuda Jakubowicz and David Rapoport.  In May and August 1941, Amelot provided relief activities to Jews interned in the French concentration camps.  Amelot helped rescue Jews who had escaped deportation.  It hid children and distributed forged documents.  In June 1943, Rapoport was arrested by the Nazis and deported.  Eugene Minkowski, director of the OSE, was also arrested by the Nazis on August 23, 1943.  After their arrests, Amelot was run by Abraham Alpérine.  By 1943, Amelot operated completely underground.  Amelot helped save more than one thousand Jewish children, and thousands of Jewish adults.  It maintained four kitchens and fed thousands of Jews.  Rue Amelot received significant support from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

Amelot on a number of occasions took extreme and dangerious measures to warn Jews regarding planned arrests and deportations.  Thousands of Jews were thus saved.  Amelot would do everything in its power to publicize the Nazi murderousintentions.  Amelot functioned illegally in its efforts to help immigrant Jews living in France.  These individuals were often the most in danger of arrest.

Rue Amelot was associated with the Fédération des Sociétés Juives de France and had representatives of both the Bund and Zionist organizations.

 



American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) was one of the principal rescue and relief agencies involved in the rescue of Jews in World War II.  Between 1933 and 1940, it provided millions of dollars in financial aid to Jews in Eastern Europe.  The JDC also funded the American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation (Agro-Joint).  JDC representatives sent money into Jewish communities in numerous illicit or illegal operations to save Jews.  The Joint maintained offices in New York City, in neutral Lisbon, Portugal, and Switzerland, and local offices throughout Nazi occupied Europe.  It supplied money to Jewish self-help rescue and relief operations, including funds to provide relief activities and supported Jewish armed resistance.

Specifically, the JDC supplied funds to French Jewish organizations throughout France.  It also was active in supporting the activities of Gisi Fleischmann and Rabbi Dov Weissmandel in Slovakia.  Funds to aid Romanian Jewry through Wilhelm Filderman were sent to save and support Jews deported from Bessarabia and Bukovina who were expelled from Transnistria in 1941.  The Joint funded most of the activities of the United States War Refugee Board.  Most of Raoul Wallenberg’s and Carl Lutz’s rescue activity in Budapest was funded by the JDC.  The JDC raised and spent $70,235,876 for rescue and relief of Jews, 1933-1945.  Tens of thousands of Jews were rescued.

The Transmigration Bureau was a subgroup of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

 



Children’s Aid Rescue Society (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants; OSE)

Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE) was an international Jewish organization devoted to caring for the health and welfare of Jewish adults and children, mainly refugees from Eastern Europe.

With the rise of Nazism in Germany, the organization moved its headquarters to France. In 1938, 80% of the work done by OSE was devoted to children.  This included setting up children’s homes and creating an infrastructure to feed and care for these children. 

After June 1940, the OSE moved to southern France. OSE, using volunteers, was active in spiriting children away from the internment camps of Gurs, Agde and Rivesaltes in Southern France. More than 600 children were rescued. By the summer of 1942, there were 1200 children sheltered in 14 OSE homes. In 1942, with the occupation of southern France, OSE went underground. Georges Garel headed the underground activities of the OSE from August 1942. Garel managed to hide approximately 1,600 Jewish children.  OSE worked under the umbrella of UGIF-S, which helped in providing cover for its operations.

In 1943, all the children’s homes were closed. The children were taken individually into hiding with non-Jewish families or to other, non-Jewish institutions.  Others were taken to neutral Switzerland or Spain. Children who were too young, who "looked Jewish," or who had not mastered the French language, were smuggled across the Swiss border by OSE guides. Over 1000 children escaped from France through these convoys. In addition, OSE cared for more than 1,000 Jewish children who continued living with their families.  Historians estimate that by the end of the war, OSE had saved between 6,000 and 9,000 Jewish children. 

During the war, 32 OSE staff members lost their lives and approximately 90 OSE children did not survive.  Some of the prominent Jews who worked with OSE were Eugene Minkowski (Paris), Joseph Milner, Julien Samuel, Nicole Salon-Weill, Huguette Wahl (Marseilles), Charles Lederman, Elizabeth Hirsch (Lyon), Dr. Joseph Weill and Gaston Levy (Limoges), Alan Mosse, Dr. Simon Brutzkus, Dr. Lazar Gorevich, Dr. Boris Tschlenoff, Andrée Salomon and Georges Loinger, among many others.  The OSE was supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

Several dozen employees and more than a hundred supporters of the OSE were murdered by the Germans for their activities in rescuing more than 5,000 children.

 



Committee for the Protection of Jews in Belgium (Comité de Defense des Juifs in Belgique; CDJ, later CNDJ), Brussels, Belgium

The Comité de Defense des Juifs in Belgium began its activities in July 1942. It was founded by Ghert Jospa, who established contact between representatives of the Jewish Communists, the Front d’Independence and various Zionist activists across the political spectrum.

The CDJ had important ties with the general resistance organizations as well as with the Belgian Judenrat (Belgian Jewish Council; AJB).  In November 1943, it became known as the Belgian National Jewish Council (CNDJ), with offices in Antwerp, Brussels, Liège and Charleroi.  The CNDJ played a central role in the rescue and resistance operations in Belgium from 1942 to 1944. The CNDJ’s main purpose was to find hiding places for Jews.  The children’s section of the CNDJ succeeded in hiding four thousand children. The CNDJ worked with Yvonne Nèvejean (not Jewish) with the National Agency for Children (ONE), a Belgian government organization that organized children’s homes throughout the Netherlands.

By May 1943, 1,300 children were hidden and supported by the CNDJ.  By the time of liberation in the summer of 1944, more than 2,100 children were hidden.  In addition, the CNDJ was in contact with and supporting 7,500 Jewish adults throughout Belgium.

The CNDJ worked with the Catholic Church and the Oeuvre Nationale de l’Enfance (National Children’s Committee), headed by Yvonne Nèvejean.

The CNDJ participated in some armed resistance activities in Belgium.

Some of the prominent members were Abusz Werber, Edouard Rotkel, Benjamin Nykerk, Chaim Perelman and Eugene Hellendael.

 



Delegation for the Assistance of Immigrants (DELASEM; Delegazione Assistenza Emigranti Ebrei), France and Italy

DELASEM was an umbrella of several Jewish organizations both in France and in Italy.  It was founded in 1933.  In November 1939, DELASEM began operating as a relief and rescue organization.  It was headed by Vittorio Valobra and its secretary was Raffaele Cantoni.  It became a secret organization which, during the war years, operated in Italy, Yugoslavia and Southern France.  DELASEM also supported beleaguered Jews in these occupied areas. 

During the war, it helped save thousands of Jews all over Europe.  In France and Italy, DELASEM was headed by Father Marie-Benoit, a Capuchin monk. 

DELASEM provided forged identity papers and ration cards.  More than 10,000 Jewish refugees were supported by DELASEM with money from the American Jewish Joint.  Prominent Jewish leaders of DELASEM included Vittorio Valobra (President), Settimio Sorani (Secretary), Angelo Donati, Aaron Kasztersztein, Rabbi Riccardo Pacifici, Stefan Schwamm, Dante Almasi, Enrico Luzzato, Massimo Teglio and Francesco Repetto.

 



Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe (Bergson Group)

This organization, called the Bergson Group, was organized by Peter H. Bergson (Hillel Kook), in June 1943.  It was headquartered in the United States.  It was one of the leading rescue advocacy organizations in the world.  Bergson called for the creation of a Jewish army of stateless and Palestinian Jews.  Bergson organized numerous rallies throughout the United States to raise awareness of the murder of Jews in Europe.  Bergson was a leading advocate for the adoption of the Biltmore Resolution in May 1942, which separated the issue of rescuing Jews from the establishing of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  Bergson’s activities were disparaged and criticized by mainstream American Jewish organizations.  The Bergson Group was the catalyst for the creation of the War Refugee Board under the US Treasury Department. 

Some of the prominent Jewish members were Samuel Merlin, executive director, Ben Hecht, co-chair and Ira Hirschman.  These were known as “Bergson’s Boys.”

   



Garel Network (Circuit Garel)

The Circuit Garel, or the Garel Circuit, was an elaborate rescue network to save Jews that operated in southern France from August 1942 until the liberation of France in August 1944.  It was founded and organized by a French Jew named George Garel who ran a small electrical business in Lyon.  Garel worked with Abbé Glasberg (a converted Jew) throughout the war.

By mid 1943, the Garel Circuit operated in four regions in southern France with 29 volunteers.  They maintained strict security and many did not know the names of many of their fellow rescuers.

The Garel Circuit worked with a number of Catholic and Protestant churches.  Garel’s network was supported by Archbishop Jules-Gérard Saliège of Toulouse, and Pierre-Marie Theas, bishop of Montauban.

By mid 1943, Garel had hidden more than 1,600 Jewish children.  Many of these were with Christian families.  Many of these Jewish children had parents who had already been deported to the concentration camps and were threatened with deportation themselves.  Many of these were foreign Jews of German, Czech or Polish citizenship.  A number of these children were smuggled out of French internment camps.

In the autumn of 1942, Garel’s network was divided between areas in Lyon and Limoges.  The Garel Circuit also operated in Paris, under the leadership of Eugene Minkowski. 

Leaders of the Garel Circuit were Joseph Milner (“Jomi”), Andrée Salomon, Dr. Jean Cremer, René Borel, Alain Mosse, Elizabeth Hirsch, Charlotte Rosenbaum, Robert Job and Germaine Masour.  One leader, Julien Samuel, was arrested.

 



He Halutz Youth – Zionist Pioneers, Budapest

The He Halutz Youth (Zionist Pioneers) was a militant rescue organization of young Jews in Budapest.  There were approximately 500 active members of the Halutz.  Their rescue operations in Budapest in 1944-1945 were an important part of the overall rescue of Jews in the Hungarian capital.  Before the Nazi occupation, the Halutz provided Polish, Slovakian and other refugees in Hungary with false identification papers.  They worked with both the Va’ada and the Tiyyul (Excursion) departments.  After the German occupation, they continued to distribute counterfeit identification papers.  Members of this operation included Dan Zimmerman, Saraga Weil, Sandor Groszmann and Efra Teichmann.  Many of the Halutz members operated underground, sometimes even passing themselves off as members of the SS or the Arrow Cross.  The activities of the Halutz were headquartered in the building of the Jewish Council.  Halutz members Jenö Kolb and Yehuda Weisz were also part of the Jewish Council’s Information Section.  Kolb and Weisz distributed Jewish Council certificates to a number of Jews who were smuggled to Budapest from ghettoes in the provinces.  In July 1944, the Halutz made their headquarters at the Glass House on Vadász Street.  Halutz leaders became workers at the Glass House.  In the Glass House, they continued illegal rescue programs with Tiyyul.  Halutz members distributed a number of Swiss protective papers.  After the Arrow Cross takeover, Halutz obtained guns and built fortified bunkers throughout Budapest.  Jews were hidden and housed in some of these bunkers.  In the fall of 1944, Halutz continued to mass produce counterfeit protective passes that were being issued by neutral diplomats.  Wearing the uniforms of the Arrow Cross, the SS and other military units, the Halutz rescued Jews from captivity.  They rescued their fellow Jews from yellow star houses, internment camps and the Obuda (North Buda) brickyard.  They liberated Jews from prisons and from Arrow Cross execution gangs on the Danube.  Halutzim also worked with Department A of the International Red Cross, led by Otto Komoly.  With Department A, they helped supply food to children’s homes and the protected houses.  Other prominent members of He Halutz were Zvi Goldfarb, Rafi (Friedl) Ben-Shalom, Peretz Revesz, David (Gur) Grosz, Sándor (Alexander; Ben Eretz) Groszmann, Yitzhak (Mimish) Horváth, József Mayer, Moshe (Alpan) Pil, Moshe Rosenberg and Efra (Agmon) Teichmann.

 



HICEM - the United Committee for Jewish Immigration (Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society; HIAS-ICA-EMIGDIRECT)

The Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) was established in New York in 1885 and was reorganized in 1901.  It was created to help Jewish refugees enter the United States and other countries, including Latin and South America and Canada.

The United Committee for Jewish Immigration (HICEM) was founded in New York City in 1927 with the merger of three refugee and relief societies (HIAS-ICA-EMIGDIRECT).  HICEM facilitated the rescue and emigration of tens of thousands of Jews throughout Nazi occupied Europe.  It arranged for emigrants to receive life-saving visas.  It also arranged for the shipping and transportation of Jews to the United States, Palestine, South America, Latin America and Australia.  HICEM members often broke the law and used illegal methods for helping Jews leave the Nazi orbit.

Local Jews in Portugal, including Professor Moses B. Amzalak and Dr. Augusto d’Essaguy, helped organize escape for Jews throughout Europe.

 



National Coordinating Committee for Aid to Refugees and Emigrants Coming from Germany (NCC), USA, established 1933 (successor organization was National Refugee Service), organized and funded in part by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)

The National Coordinating Committee Fund, Inc., was established in 1938.  An affiliated organization was established in New York City in 1938 called the Greater New York Coordinating Committee.  Lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of refugees.  Tried to change immigration policies to accept more European refugees.  Chairman, 1934-1939, Joseph B. Chamberlain.  Vice Chairman, 1936-1939, William Rosenwald.  Treasurer, Paul Felix Warburg.  Secretary, Executive Director, Cecilia Razovsky.

 



Perl Transport (Af-Al-Pi, “Despite Everything”)

Dr. William Perl organized a massive rescue operation called AF-AL-PI (“In Spite of Everything”).  He was able to organize transport for thousands of Jews throughout Europe to Palestine and other destinations.  Perl worked with Aliyah Bet.  Sending refugees to Palestine was illegal and in violation of the British White Paper.

Ironically, the Perl Transport and Af-Al-Pi was encouraged by Nazi authorities as a means of ridding itself of Jews.  Perl worked out of Vienna as his headquarters.  He chartered boats down the Danube, where he helped spirit thousands of Jews out of Nazi-occupied Europe to Palestine.  Perl and his numerous associates were credited with saving tens of thousands of Jews.

 



Refugee Aid Committee (Comisia Autonoma de Ajutorare)

The Refugee Aid Committee (Comisia Autonoma de Ajutorare) was founded in Bucharest, Romania, in June 1941.  It was originally established to provide relief to Jews under the Ion Antonescu dictatorship.  It was founded and run by the following Jewish community leaders:  Wilhelm Filderman, Fred Saraga, Emil Costiner, Misu Benvenisti, Dr. Cornel Iancu and Arnold Schwefelberg.  It eventually supplied relief for more than 40,000 Jews who had been expelled from their homes and were detained in camps throughout Romania. 

The Refugee Aid Committee later supplied relief to Jews who were drafted into forced labor battalions.  Wilhelm Filderman tried unsuccessfully to provide supplies to Jews of Bessarabia and Bucovina.  Filderman was successful, however, in providing aid to the deported Jews of Transnistria.  From 1942 to 1943, the Committee provided aid to Jewish deportees in Transnistria and was able to save numerous lives.  In addition, the community organized the return of 6,000 Jews from the Dorohoi District, which included 4,000 Jewish orphans.

   



Reich Representative Council for German Jews (Reichsvertretung de Deutschen Juden; RV), after 1935 called the Reich Representative Council of the Jews in Germany (Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland; RVE), National Union of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland; RdJD) in 1939

The Reich Representative Council for German Jews was the executive arm of the Central Committee of the German Jews for Help and Reconstruction, which was originally set up in April 1933 as political, economic and social representatives of German Jewry.  The three founders were George S. Hirschland (president of the Essen Jewish Community), Ernst Herzfeld, deputy, and Rabbi Hugo Hahn.

After July 1939, it became the RVE under the control of Eichmann and the Gestapo.  Its leaders were Rabbi Leo Baek, Julius Seligsohn*, Paul Meyerheim and Paul Eppstein, who was in charge of finance and emigration.  Another member was Hannah Karminski.

These organizations distributed funds from numerous overseas Jewish relief agencies, including HIAS, HICEM and RELICO. 

There were fewer than 100 individuals working in the Reichsvertretung.

Helping Jews emigrate was an extremely difficult process.  Jews were stripped of their rights and economic resources.  They were forced to leave Germany virtually penniless.  By the late 1930’s, Jews were required to turn over 90% of their assets as a “flight tax.” 

One of the most difficult aspects of leaving Germany was obtaining vital paperwork, including passports, visas, affidavits, birth certificates, economic statements, transit documents and statement of moral standing.  Obtaining exit and transit visas was one of the most difficult processes.  The RV, and later the RVE, helped many of the Jewish emigrants obtain these documents.

The executive department of the Reichsvertretung was the Zentralausschuss der Deutschen Juden für Hilf und Aufbau.

The Reichsvertretung coordinated its activities with the following emigration agencies: Main Department for Jewish Migration Welfare (Hauptstelle für Judische Wanderfürsorge), the Palestine Office (Palästina-Amt), and the Aid Association (Hilfsverein).

The Repatriation Committee of Reichsvertretung (Hauptstelle für Judische Wanderfürsorge) helped non-Germany Jews to repatriate to their former countries, Poland, Romania, etc.

 



Relief Committee for the War-Stricken Jewish Population (RELICO)

The Relief Committee for the War-Stricken Jewish Population (RELICO) was founded by Dr. Abraham Silberschein in September 1939 under the umbrella of the World Jewish Congress.  RELICO was originally founded to search for missing relatives and to provide assistance to Jewish refugees in Europe.  RELICO enabled groups to leave Germany and go to South America and Palestine.  It helped refugees in Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

RELICO worked with other Jewish organizations in the relief and rescue of Jewish refugees.  It had representatives in Portugal, Spain, Tangier and Casablanca.  Silberschein worked with the International Red Cross and various diplomats of Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Papal representatives, Protestant church groups, and the American Friends’ Service Committee (Quakers). These organizations delivered food and medicine to refugees, especially in Nazi occupied Poland.  RELICO was also active in collecting information about the murder of Jews in the death camps in Poland, and helped disseminate information to the international media. 

Silberschein and RELICO also worked with the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the American Jewish Joint, and other Jewish relief organizations.

Silberschein attempted to obtain passports, visas and affidavits from South American diplomats.  Thousands of these documents were sent to Jews in Poland and Upper Silesia.  Unfortunately, these documents were often not recognized by German officials, and many of the documents were declared invalid.

   



Rescue Committee of the United States Orthodox Rabbis (Va’ad Ha-Hatsala; Emergency Committee for War Torn Yishivot)

The Rescue Committee of the United States Orthodox Rabbis was founded in November 1939.  It was established by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States, which was also known as Agudat ha-Rabbanim.  The Va’ad sent relief to 2,500 Orthodox rabbis and yeshiva students who were in Lithuania.  650 rabbis and yeshiva students were able to emigrate to the United States. 

The Va’ad was also actively engaged in raising awareness of the murder of Jews throughout Nazi occupied Europe. It organized a march on the White House by 600 Orthodox rabbis in October 1943.  Their activities were indirectly linked to lobbying the government for the creation of the War Refugee Board.  After January 1944, the Va’ad made its mission to rescue all Jews endangered in the Holocaust, regardless of their religious affiliation.  Prominent members of the Va’ad were Recha and Isaac Sternbuch, in Switzerland; Wilhelm Wolbe, in Sweden; Yaakov Griffel, in Turkey; and Renee Reichman in Tangier.  The Va’ad also maintained contact with the leaders of the Working Group in Slovakia.  Late in the war, the Va’ad was responsible for negotiating the release and rescue of 1,200 Jews from Theresienstadt.

 


 


Working Group (Pracovná Skupina), Nebenregierung (“Other Government”), Slovakia

The Working Group was a successor organization to the Jewish Center (Ústredna Zidov) in Slovakia.  It was headed by Gisi Fleischman and Rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandel.  It was founded in February 1942 to aid and rescue Jews.  It was responsible for negotiating with Slovak and Nazi authorities to save Jews.  It initiated the Europa Plan.  Other members of this organization were Andrej Steiner, Rabbi Armin-Abba Frieder, Dr. Oscar Neumann, Vojtech Winterstein, Wilhelm Furst, Zvi Feher, Dr. Tibor Kovacs and Ernst Ables.  The Working Group to a limited degree helped to end some deportations to the death camps in Poland from Slovakia.  The Working Group also provided aid, including food and medicine, to Jews who had been deported.  The Working Group also made attempts, unsuccessfully, to save the Jews of Greece.

The Working Group also disseminated the Auschwitz Protocol (report) throughout Europe.

 



Zegota (Council for Aid to Jews; Rada Pomocy Zydom)

Zegota was a clandestine rescue and relief organization in Nazi occupied Poland.  It functioned from December 4, 1942 until Poland was liberated in January 1945.  Zegota was one of the few organizations that had both Jews and non-Jews in its leadership.  Zegota was comprised of leaders representing five Polish organizations and two Jewish organizations.  The two Jewish organizations were the Jewish National Committee (Zydowski Komitet Narodowy), represented by Adolf Abraham Berman, and the Bund, represented by Leon Feiner.  In late 1944, Leon Feiner was appointed president, and Adolf Berman secretary.

Zegota utilized secret organizations and their memberships for the relief and rescue of Jews.  By January 1943, Zegota was helping 300 Jews.

One of the most difficult activities of Zegota was finding shelter and hiding places for Jews.  This was particularly difficult as it was a capital offense to hide Jews in Poland.  Children were found homes in foster families, or sympathetic orphanages and church convents.  It is estimated that Zegota found homes for and looked after 2,500 Jewish children.

By December 1943, more than 2,000 Jews were being helped.  By the summer of 1944, more than 4,000 Jews were saved.  Zegota also provided tens of thousands of high quality, forged documents for Jews, including Aryan documents, baptismal certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, identity cards and employment cards.

Zegota was awarded a Righteous among the Nations certificate by Yad Vashem in October 1963.

 



ZETOS (Zydowskie Towarzystwo Opkieki Spolecznei; Jewish Society for Self-Help)

The Jewish Self-Help Society was established in 1940.  ZETOS, known as the Jewish Society for Self-Help, was a major umbrella organization sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Poland. 

ZETOS was responsible for organizing public kitchens and running and organizing children’s homes, hospitals, and various aid operations in Warsaw, Poland.  Some of the key members of the organization were Emanuel Ringelblum (chair), Sachne Sagan (LPZ), Maurycy Orczech (Bund) and Abraham Gepner.  ZETOS was very effective in feeding thousands of starving Poles.  It was able to maintain its independence from the Judenrat throughout the war.  ZETOS’ operations were a cover for various military and political operations during the war.

ZETOS operated in conjunction with Zydowskie Towarzystwo Opieki Spolecznej and Central Council for Care (Naczelna Rada Opiekuncza).

Emmanuel Ringelblum used ZETOS to create Oneg Shabbat, which was an institution for documenting life in the ghettoes.

ZETOS was closed by the Nazis in the end of 1943.  All but one of the directors of ZETOS were murdered.

   



Zionist Youth Movement (Mouvement de Jeunesse Sioniste; MJS)

Otto (Toto) Giniewski, a Jewish refugee from Austria who had settled in Montpellier, founded a youth movement called the “Zionist Brigade of Montpellier,” The Brigade developed into a national underground movement, the Mouvement de Jeuness Sioniste (Zionist Youth Movement; MJS). The MJS was made up of young Zionists.  Members of the MJS devoted themselves to rescuing fellow Jews, children as well as adults. No effort was too great and the results were remarkable. Different networks within the MJS were active in far-flung parts of southern France.  Service Andre, based in Marseilles, took their charges to the area of Chambon-sur-Lignon near Lyon; the Marcel network operated out of Nice. The rescue branch of the Armée Juive (Jewish Army) was active in the prefecture of Tarn and in Paris. Another form of rescue was smuggling Jews across the borders of France, both to Switzerland and to Spain. The MJS worked with the Dutch Hehalutz organization, which managed to organize an escape route from Amsterdam to the south of France and into Spain, with the support of the French Zionist organizations. Some of the most courageous of these young underground workers were caught, tortured and killed. Among these were Marianne Cohn (OSE), Andrée Salomon (OSE) and Joachim Simon (Sushu) of the Dutch group.

Rescue efforts by French Jewish youth organizations were highly effective.  Despite working under extremely dangerous conditions, either in urban or rural areas, they were able to save 7,000 Jewish children whose parents had been deported.  1,500 of these were guided into Switzerland.  Many others were placed in non-Jewish households.

Three French organizations, the EIF (Jewish Scouts), the MJS and the Armée Juive, also participated in armed combat.