A Woman of Great Generosity and Courage
The Fellowship | December 11, 2019
The twin sister and granddaughter of renowned Polish painters, Zofia Kossak was born into a creative life. Also a Christian, she became known for her religious writings. But when the Nazis invaded Poland and began persecuting, deporting, and murdering Zofia’s Jewish neighbors, she took her writing underground.
Yes, as the Nazis overtook and occupied Poland, not only was there an Underground Resistance, there was an underground press. Zofia played a large role in it in the early years (1939-1941), editing such periodicals are Polska zyje (Poland Lives) and Prawda (The Truth). Of course these activities were dangerous, so Zofia shielded her identity behind a pseudnym, Weronika.
In 1942, the Nazis took their anti-Semitic actions even further, liquidating the Warsaw Ghetto and sending the Jews there to death camps. So Zofia spoke up in the only way she knew how — she wrote and published “Protest,” which described the murderous Nazi actions taking place right there in her homeland. In it, she wrote:
“All will perish…Poor and rich, old, women, men, youngsters, infants…Their only guilt is that they were born into the Jewish nation condemned to extermination by Hitler.”
The world, Zofia noted, had been silent:
“England is silent, so is America…Poland is silent…Dying Jews are surrounded only by a host of Pilates washing their hands in innocence.”
But Zofia Kossak did not remain silent. No, she spoke up because:
“We are required by God to protest. God who forbids us to kill. We are required by our Christian consciousness. Every human being has the right to be loved by his fellow men. The blood of the defenseless cries to heaven for revenge.”
Zofia did not just write. She also helped form what was to become the organization Zegota, an underground group that saved Polish Jews from the Nazis.
All of these actions, on paper or in person, grew increasingly dangerous. In 1943, Zofia was arrested by the Nazis and ultimately sent to Auschwitz. Her comrades in the Polish Underground helped win her release, and Zofia returned to her activities, even taking part in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.
After the war, the incoming communist regime was dangerous in its own right. A Jewish bureaucrat in the Polish government advised Zofia to leave the country, for she would be in danger. She did at first, then returned in 1957. And in her Polish homeland she would stay until she passed away at the age of 78.
Years later, Zofia Kossak would be named a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial. And in Poland, her selflessness and bravery is remembered on the above plaque that hangs from All Saints Parish Church and calls her “a woman of great generosity and courage.”