Zygelbojm, Samuel Mordecai

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ZYGELBOJM, SAMUEL MORDECAI (pseudonym: Comrade Arthur ; 1895–1943), Polish Bundist leader. Born in the village Borovica in the province of Lublin, Zygelbojm participated in the convention of the Polish *Bund organizations in December 1917 as the delegate from Chelm. From 1920 to 1936 he lived in Warsaw. In 1924 he became a member of the central committee of the Bund. He was elected member and later secretary of the national council of the Jewish trade unions of Poland and chairman of the leather workers' union (Jewish and non-Jewish). He was also a member of the central commission which headed the country's Socialist trade unions. In the early 1930s he spent a year in the United States to promote Yiddish books. In 1926 he became a member of the municipal council of Warsaw and in 1936 a member of the Lodz municipal council.

When the German forces entered Warsaw (September 1939), the mayor was compelled to hand over 12 public figures as hostages to the Nazis. Zygelbojm volunteered to be one of these hostages. He was put on the Warsaw *Judenrat as the Bund representative. There he opposed the Germans' demand that the Judenrat itself establish the Warsaw ghetto. On the request of his party, he managed to leave the German-occupied territory early in January 1940. At the end of January he attended the meeting of the executive council of the Socialist international in Brussels, where he reported on conditions in German-occupied Poland. In September he reached the U.S. From the spring of 1942 Zygelbojm lived in London, where he was the Bund representative at the national council of the Polish government-in-exile during the peak period of the "Final Solution" (see *Holocaust, General Survey). Zygelbojm received information on the Holocaust and made every attempt to alert Polish, British, and other authorities to take rescue and retaliatory action. He was deeply depressed by the ineffectiveness of official action as exemplified by the Anglo-American Conference on Refugees, held in Bermuda (April 19–30, 1943), and by the brutal repression of the revolt in the Warsaw ghetto. As a protest against the atmosphere of indifference to the tragedy of the Jewish people, Zygelbojm committed suicide on May 12, 1943. This act and the letter he left in explanation stirred public opinion.


Stop Them Now (1942); J. Karski, Story of a Secret State (1944); Ghetto Speaks, no. 8 (Feb. 1, 1948); lnyl, 3 (1960), 590–4; A.D. Morse, While Six Million Died (1968), index; Zygelbojm-Bukh (1947); A.S. Stein, Ḥaver Artur (Heb. 1953). add. bibliography: G. Pickhan, Gegen den Strom (2001).

[Moshe Mishkinsky]