Polish Catholics against Holocaust

“Protest!” is a leaflet written by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, a Polish novelist, social activist and co-founder of the underground Catholic organisation Front for the Rebirth of Poland (Front Odrodzenia Polski, FOP). Illegally distributed on 11 August 1942, the pamphlet called for solidarity with the Jews who were subjected to brutal terror.

On 22 July 1942, the great liquidation action of the Warsaw ghetto, the biggest Jewish ghetto established in the Polish territories occupied by the Germans, started. It was a stage of the Operation Reinhard which was a large-scale plan to murder all Jews in the General Government and Białystok District.

The pamphlet was supposed to make Polish Catholics more sensitive to the fate of the Jews and encourage them to protest against the criminal actions carried out by the Third Reich. In the circumstances of terror and occupation, it was extremely difficult to present such an attitude all the more so because of the complicated pre-war Polish and Jewish relations. Constituting 10% of the Polish society, the Jews represented one of the most significant ethnic and religious minorities in the Second Polish Republic. Many organisations of national and Christian democratic character used anti-Semitic slogans, demanding, for example, the forced emigration of Jews to Palestine. Polish groups that derived from the National Democracy (Narodowa Demokracja, ND) postulated the limitation of Jewish rights. However, they never insisted on their physical extermination. Co-founded by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, the Front for the Rebirth of Poland, which was a continuation of the pre-war Catholic Action (Akcja Katolicka), did not fight against prejudices against the Jews, yet it was frightened by the German version of anti-Semitism that included genocide. In the face of the Holocaust, which was an unprecedented event, the Front for the Rebirth of Poland as well as many other right-wing organisations, whose members continued to have prejudices against the Jews, organised actions to help them. On 27 September 1942, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka co-founded the Provisional Committee to Aid Jews “Żegota” (Tymczasowy Komitet Pomocy Żydom “Żegota”), a joint undertaking of left-wing and right-wing organisations under the auspices of the Polish Underground State. In 1982, Zofia Kossak-Szczucka was posthumously awarded the medal and title of the Righteous Among the Nations.

The text of “Protest!”