On the Council for Aid to Jews

The Fellowship  |  June 12, 2019

Ferdynand Arczynski
Ferdynand Arczynski

Ferdynand “Marek” Arczynski

December 8, 1900 – February 16, 1919

To other members of the anti-Nazi underground in Poland, Ferdynand Arczynski was known as “Marek.” One of the founding members of Zegota — the Council for Aid to Jews — Arczynski’s purpose during World War II was the same as the organization’s: to help Poland’s Jews survive the German occupation and Holocaust. Arczynski filled many roles for the group, serving as treasurer, head of the legalization department, liaison in the country’s big cities, and recruiter for those who also wanted to help Jews.

But it was Arczynski’s daily work that saved the lives of thousands of Jews. Each day he would produce fake IDs, work cards, and false birth and marriage certificates, all of which were given freely to Polish Jews in hiding. These papers saved the lives of more than 4,000 Jews who would have otherwise been deported and murdered. Arczynski also arranged for hiding places, medical help, food, and financial assistance for Jews in hiding, saving countless additional lives. But his help was not consigned to Jews still hiding from the Nazis — he also extended aid to those who had already been sent to Nazi concentration camps.

After the war, Arczynski’s work was verified by his compatriots in saving Jewish lives, and it was reaffirmed again and again that he cared little of the risks that his actions posed to his own life. For his selflessness and bravery, in 1965 Ferdynand “Marek” Arczynski was named Righteous Among the Nations, an honor which he personally accepted after having traveled to Israel — the biblical and historic homeland of the Jewish people he had so valiantly defended.