Oral History

Miriam Peleg describes why she joined Żegota

Miriam Peleg (1913–1996) was a member of the Council for Aid to Jews, codenamed “Żegota.” Żegota was a clandestine rescue organization of Poles and Jews in German-occupied Poland. Supported by the Polish government-in-exile, Żegota coordinated efforts to save Jews from Nazi persecution and murder. It operated from 1942 to 1945.

Born Maria Hochberg, Miriam was from a Polish-Jewish family. She grew up in a small town about 70 miles east of Kraków. As early as the summer of 1940, Miriam obtained false identity papers. Miriam used the alias “Maria Górska.” She spent the war living outside the boundaries of the Kraków ghetto on what was referred to as the “Aryan side.” According to Miriam, she was able to pass as a non-Jew because of her fluent Polish and “Aryan” looks. Miriam’s ability to live under a false identity allowed her to be actively involved in rescue efforts. From the start of World War II, she helped other Jews evade Nazi persecution.

In 1943, Miriam joined the Kraków branch of Żegota. She worked as a liaison between Żegota and Jewish underground organizations. Miriam was in charge of Żegota’s “legalization unit.” This unit provided false identity documents and financial assistance to Jews. Miriam also directly helped Jews in hiding, including children. She assisted several people who had escaped ghettos or camps, such as the Kraków ghetto, the Janowska camp, and Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In 1948, Miriam immigrated to Israel. There, she worked as the director of the Tel Aviv branch of Yad Vashem. Miriam also served as a member of the committee that awards Yad Vashem’s honor of “Righteous Among the Nations.”

In this interview, Miriam describes why she joined the Kraków branch of Żegota.



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