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 archives.

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?"

Karski nodded.

"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 seen."

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 next move.

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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