Jan Karski

Jan Karski - portrait

Jan Karski was a soldier of the Home Army who witnessed the terrible events of the Holocaust. On the orders of the commanders of the Polish Underground State, he prepared a report on the crimes committed in occupied Poland and, as an emissary, informed the western world about it.

In 1939, Jan Karski joined the Polish resistance. He became a courier traveling from occupied Poland to France. During one trip he was arrested in Slovakia. Jan was afraid that during torture he might reveal important information, therefore he tried to commit suicide, but he was saved. The Polish resistance freed him from the hospital, and Jan returned to service.

He went to the ghetto in Warsaw, and managed to enter the Izbica concentration camp in disguise. He saw the Nazi crimes with his own eyes. In 1942, Jan Karski made his way to London where he showed the Polish government in exile the microfilms of his report. In December, the Polish government issued an official diplomatic note, which was the first appeal of one of the Allied countries calling for the defense of Jews and informing about the Holocaust.

During the following years of the war, Jan met with world leaders to talk about the fate of Jews and Poles under the German occupation. He was hosted by Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House. Unfortunately, he was met with disbelief many times. In order for the world to learn about the Holocaust and the struggle of the Polish Underground State, he published the book “Secret State” in 1944, which became a bestseller in the United States.

The memory of Jan Karski and his achievements returned in the 1980s. In 1982 he was awarded the title of “Righteous Among the Nations”.

Mural of Jan Karski in Warsaw. The text reads ‘Whoever does not condemn – consents’. © Adrian Grycuk