Poland’s parliament has declared the year 2014 the Year of Jan Karski. The resolution was supported by 446 MPs and no one voted against it. The year 2014 will be the 100th anniversary of the birthday of Jan Karski, which is the perfect occasion to pay homage to one of the greatest Poles of the 20th century. He was a hero of WWII and later became a citizen of the USA. Jan Karski was an emissary of the Polish Underground State. In 1942, he delivered a report to the leaders of the Allies describing the tragic situation of the Jewish community in Poland and the planned German extermination of the Jews. He is often described as the man who “wanted to stop the Holocaust”. Jan Karski (real name Jan Kozielewski) was born 24 April, 1914 in the Polish city of Łódź. In 1935, after finishing law at Lwów University, Karski worked as a clerk at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When the war began, he enlisted in the army. In September 1939 he was captured by the Soviets. Two months later he escaped and returned to Warsaw, where he started underground activities set on fighting the Nazis. Thanks to his wonderful memory and superb language skills, he became a messenger of the Polish Underground State. Soon after, he set off to Great Britain and the USA to inform them of the tragic state of the Polish Jews under the German occupation. He passed his shocking testimony onto many American and British politicians, journalists and artists. For instance, he met with the head of the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anthony Eden and the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Unfortunately, his dramatic call for help fell on deaf ears. After the war, Karski stayed in the U.S. and defended his doctoral thesis in political science at Georgetown University. For the next forty years he gave lectures on international relations and communist theory. His students included future U.S. President Bill Clinton. Jan Karski received many prestigious honours, for example, the title of Polish Righteous among the Nations, numerous honorary degrees, the title of knight of the Order of the White Eagle, and he was given honorary citizenship of Israel. He died in 2000 in Washington.
- Jan Karski’s futile mission to stop the Holocaust (macleans.ca)
- Polish President Komorowski visits Rabin Center (afyrc.wordpress.com)
- Poles Demand Obama Apology For “Polish Death Camps” Comment (buzzfeed.com)
- The Noble and the Base: Poland and the Holocaust (3quarksdaily.com)