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  • To serve Poland – to build Europe – to understand the world

     

  • CULTURE AND SCIENCE

  • 28 January 2014

    Within the framework of the Karski Year’s celebrations in Albania the opinion-making journal „Europe” has published in its No7/2014 an important article on Polish hero of the Word War II Jan Karski and his merits for humanity.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    April 24 marks the centennial of the birth of Jan Karski, the Pole who gave Western Allies the first eyewitness account of the Holocaust in 1942. On the occasion of the Year of Jan Karski, declared by the Sejm of the Republic of Poland, Polish diplomacy has been telling the international public about the accomplishments of the heroic Home Army emissary.

     

     

    The 28-year-old Karski, an eye witness of the Holocaust as a courier for the Polish Underground State, personally delivered detailed reports on German actions taken against the Jewish population to representatives of the British authorities and appealed to the British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and the media to stop the Holocaust.

     

    In July 1943, following the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazis, Jan Karski went to Washington where he met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Karski’s actions and his report presenting findings from the Warsaw Ghetto which he infiltrated twice and the German transit camp in Izbica where he was smuggled as a guard, had not led to an Allied  intervention. After World War II Jan Karski came to live in the US.

     

    In 1998, Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, named Jan Karski a Righteous Among the Nations and presented his candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize. Jan Karski, whose real name was Jan Kozielewski, was born in 1914. It is not certain, however, whether the exact date of his birth was April 24 or June 24, since there are discrepancies between documents and family archives. He died in Washington on July 13, 2000, aged 86.

     

    On December 6, 2013, Poland’s Parliament named 2014 the Year of Jan Karski, voting on a motion by Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski. The year 2014 will the height of a four-year campaign to restore the memory of the legendary emissary that was initiated by the Polish History Museum in cooperation with the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

     

    Poland’s diplomacy has planned a number of events for 2014 to promote, together with partners, the accomplishments of Jan Karski (1914-2000). The year of commemorating the Polish hero was inaugurated on January 8 by an academic conference and an exhibition in the European Parliament in Brussels.

     

     

     

    MFA Press Office

     

    Learn more about Jan Karski: www.mfa.gov.pl/karski

     

    Photo: Maciej Sadowski "Jan Karski. Photobiography", VEDA, 2014

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    During the Second World War, Jan Karski, an emissary of the Polish Secret State, was the first to inform the Allies about the genocide of European Jewry from detailed personal experience.

     

     

     

    To commemorate the centenary of Karski's birth, international events have begun under the auspices of the Polish government and other institutions and foundations including the Polish History Museum.

     

    The astonishing story of Jan Karski, who has been counted by Newsweek as among the 20th century's 100 most distinguished figures, was brought back to the world's attention in 1985 by the groundbreaking documentary Shoah by Claude Lanzmann.

     

    Jan Karski was born Jan Romuald Kozielewski on the 24th of April 1914 in Łódź, Poland. He obtained a degree in law and diplomacy in 1935 at Jan Kazimierz University in Lviv. Having completed diplomatic training, he was employed in 1939 by Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A reserve artillery officer during the German and Soviet invasions of Poland in Septemeber 1939, he was imprisoned in Soviet camps in the Kozielsk district then, in a prisoner exchange, escaped the fate of thousands of fellow Polish officers, soldiers and citizens murdered there and at Katyń in 1940. In Warsaw he engaged in activities of the nascent Polish Underground State.

     

    He undertook his first courier mission to the Polish government-in-exile in France in 1940. He illegally entered the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw twice in 1941, to be able to report directly on the terrible conditions there. Disguised as a camp guard, he entered the transit ghetto in Izbica Lubelska, where Germans were transporting Jews to the death camp at Belzec. In 1942, under his code name, Jan Karski, he delivered reports about the activities of the Polish Underground State and the situation of Poles and Jews in occupied Poland to the Polish government in London, then met with British politicians including Foreign Minister Anthony Eden. In 1943, he met with prominent U.S. leaders including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, reporting again about resistance efforts within Poland and providing early evidence of the Holocaust.


    His book Story of a Secret State, in which he described his wartime experiences and missions and the work of the Underground State, was published in the United States in 1944 and reissued in 2013 by Georgetown University Press. After the war Karski could not return to Communist Poland and remained in Washington where he taught for decades at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C. The bilingual volume Jan Karski: Photobiography by Maciej Sadowski, is published in early 2014 by VEDA in Warsaw (see the piece on Culture.pl here).

     

    One of the important projects for the Karski Year is a series of international conferences: at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. in April; at Loyola University in Chicago in September; and in Warsaw in November. These conferences will focus on the historical consequences of Karski’s mission and its contemporary relevance in the context of the United Nations doctrine Responsibility to Protect, which defines the obligation of individuals, organizations and states to protect civilians during times of war and to intervene when ethnic cleansing occurs. These conferences will be organized in collaboration with the Polish History Museum in Warsaw, the Polish Foreign Ministry and the respective universities.

    To learn more about activities for the Jan Karski Year 2014, see www.jankarski.org (the organization responsible for Karski's Presidential Medal of Freedom) and www.jankarski.org/en (the Polish History Museum's dedicated site, with the project Jan Karski: Unfinished Mission).

     

     

     

    Click the pictures to link the on-line exhibition.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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