A compelling story of extraordinary courage: a man who escaped Soviet
prison and endured Nazi torture, a diplomatic courier of the Polish
underground state who first informed the world of Nazi atrocities.
Karski snuck into the Warsaw ghetto and into a Nazi death camp so that he
could witness mass murder first hand. In 1942-43, Jan Karski reported on
the extermination Jews to British, and American leaders, meeting with
Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice
Felix Frankfurter and other statesmen and public figures.|
Professor Karski, held six honorary degrees, received the highest
honors from the Republic of Poland, and, as one of the Righteous Among
Nations, was the honorary citizen of the state of Israel. In 1974, he was
awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to inspect Polish, British, and French
A distinguished diplomat, scholar and a Georgetown
University Professor, Jan Karski authored Story of a Secret State and The
Great Powers and Poland, 1919-1945: From Versailles to Yalta.
Young Jan Karski
the scars on his face are from prison
"The Supreme Court justice sat opposite Karski, looking into his eyes.|
"Mr. Karski," Frankfurter asked, "do you know that I am a Jew?"
"There are so many conflicting reports about what is happening to the Jews
in your country," Frankfurter said. "Please tell me exactly what you have
Jan spent half an hour patiently explaining how his missions to the Ghetto
and the camp had come about and precisely, in gruesome detail, what he had
witnessed. When Karski finished, he waited for the visitor to make the
Frankfurter silently got up from his chair. For a few moments, he paced
back and forth in front of Karski and the ambassador, who looked on in
puzzlement. Then, just as quietly, he took his seat again.
"Mr. Karski," Frankfurter said after a further pause, "a man like me
talking to a man like you must be totally frank. So I must say: I am
unable to believe you."
Ciechanowski flew from his seat. "Felix, you don't mean it!" he cried.
"How can you call him a liar to his face! The authority of my government
is behind him. You know who he is!"
Frankfurter replied, in a soft voice filled with resignation, "Mr.
Ambassador, I did not say this young man is lying. I said I am unable to
believe him. There is a difference."
- From: E. Thomas
Wood's and Stanislaw M. Jankowski's Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the
Holocaust (Wiley and Sons).
Edited version of material first published in the December 1, 1998, issue of the electronic newsletter Siec.
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