Document 35 Żegota appeals for funds to rescue Polish Jews

This letter, composed 12 May 1943, reflects the difficulties faced by the underground Council for Aid to Jews in Warsaw in procuring the necessary funds for its activities. It is taken from the council's voluminous secret archive, which survived the war.

To the [Polish] Minister of Social Welfare, London:

The occupier’s murder of the country’s Jewish population, which is increasing daily and now reaching culmination, imposes ever greater and more difficult obligations ... for rescuing the remaining ... Jews and supporting active resistance units. In the fourth year of the war the Polish people have become so impoverished that, although we can demand that they give their lives to aid and hide hunted Jews ... it is impossible to demand ... material contributions ... The Council for Aid to Jews ... possesses so relatively few material resources received from the [underground authorities] that they represent only symbolic assistance in the face of the enormity of the demands and needs that mount each day. The Council ... has already requested the Polish government-in-exile ... to send it 6-8 million zl. per month if assistance is to be real and not a fiction. Unfortunately, so far the Council has received neither assistance nor a response.

The prime minister’s words ... about extending aid to the ill-fated Jewish population found a lively response here ..., but in order for documents to remain of large-scale humanitarian activity by the Polish population ... great amounts of funds are needed for establishing aid centres, for continuous and not merely haphazard assistance to the victims, for the inclusion of as many victims as possible, and for reaching wherever aid is needed, wherever it is still possible to release a person from the hands of the criminals.

Thus the Council for Aid to Jews ..., conscious of its obligations and responsibilities ..., asks you to intervene in this matter, to allocate the needed funds for this purpose, and to send the Council a response as quickly as possible. The Council’s future plans depend on this.

Warsaw, 12 May 1943

(Yad Vashem Archives, 06/48.10a)

Document 36 A plea to combat blackmail of Jews in hiding

This document from the Zegota archive, dated March 1943, was addressed to the leadership of the Polish underground.

The plague of blackmail carried out by criminal elements of society against Jews ... is already a mass phenomenon ...

A determined struggle against this hideous practice of extorting and denouncing the victims of German terror is becoming the burning problem of the moment, and the condemnation of this disgraceful plague is a matter of our community's honour and self-respect.

The Aid Council Zegota, at its meeting on 25 [March 1943], decided to request of the government delegate:

  • 1 Publication and posting of death sentences against blackmailers that have already been carried out. Only street placards including the grounds for the sentences and a categorical admonition against other [such deeds] will create the necessary effect and bring real results. Only in this way will the broad mass of the populace realize that the government delegate regards blackmail as a capital crime ...
  • 2 Stepping up the active struggle against blackmailers by ... regularly assigning ... the death penalty. Such a decisive stand by state officials will undoubtedly bring the expected result and radically change the demoralizing state of affairs.
  • (Prekerowa, 1982: 370-371)

Document 37 Himmler comments on mass murder

From a speech to senior SS officers given by Himmler at Poznan, 4 October 1943

I ... want to speak to you ... of a really grave chapter. Amongst ourselves ... it shall be said quite openly, but all the same we will never speak about it in public ...

I am referring ... to the extermination of the Jewish people ... Most of you men know what it is like to see 100 corpses side by side, or 500, or 1,000. To have stood fast through this and ... to have stayed decent - that has made us hard. This is an unwritten and never-to-be-written page of glory in our history ... All in all ..., we can say that we have carried out this most difficult of tasks in a spirit of love for our people. And we have suffered no harm to our inner being, our soul, our character.

(Arad etal., 1999: 344-345)

The United Nations General

Assembly proclaims an

Document 38 The United Nations General Assembly proclaims an International Day of Holocaust Commemoration

Soviet forces advancing towards Berlin took control of Auschwitz on 27 January 1945. On the sixtieth anniversary of that event the United Nations declared the date an International Day of Commemoration, to be observed annually.

The General Assembly,

Reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, religion or other status,

Recalling article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,

Recalling also article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which state that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,

Bearing in mind that the founding principle of the Charter of the United Nations, ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’, is testimony to the indelible link between the United Nations and the unique tragedy of the Second World War,

Recalling the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted in order to avoid repetition of genocides such as those committed by the Nazi regime,

Recalling also the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, Taking note of the fact that the sixtieth session of the General Assembly is taking place during the sixtieth year of the defeat of the Nazi regime,

Recalling the twenty-eighth special session of the General Assembly, a unique event, held in commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps,

Honouring the courage and dedication shown by the soldiers who liberated the concentration camps,

Reaffirming that the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice,

  • 1 Resolves that the United Nations will designate 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust;
  • 2 Urges Member States to develop educational programmes that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide, and in this context commends the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research;
  • 3 Rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or part;
  • 4 Commends those States which have actively engaged in preserving those sites that served as Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labour camps and prisons during the Holocaust;
  • 5 Condemns without reserve all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur;
  • 6 Requests the Secretary-General to establish a programme of outreach on the subject of the ‘Holocaust and the United Nations’ as well as measures to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education, in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide; to report to the General Assembly on the establishment of this programme within six months from the date of the adoption of the present resolution; and to report thereafter on the implementation of the programme at its sixty-third session.
  • (Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on the Holocaust Remembrance [A/RES/60/7, 1 November 2005], holocaustremembrance/docs/res607.shtml)
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